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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1 85 1, bj 

Gborob W. GoRDOir and James W. Paioe, 

in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Mnspachiisetts. 




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My deab Son: 

I DEDICATE one volume of these Speeches to the memory of your 
deceased brother and sister, and I am deyoutly thankful that I am able 
to inscribe another to you, my only surviving child, and the object of 
my afiections and hopes. You have been of an age, at the appearance 
of most of these speeches and writings, at which you were able to read 
and understand them ; and in the preparation of some of them you 
have taken no unimportant part. Among the diplomatic papers, there 
are several written by yourself, wholly or mainly, at the time when 
official and confidential connections subsisted between us in the Depart- 
ment of State. 

The principles and opinions expressed in these productions are such 
as I believe to be essential to the preservation of the Union, the main- 
tenance of the Constitution, and the advancement of the country to still 
higher stages of prosperity and renown. These objects have constituted 
my Pole Star during the whole of my political life, which has now ex- 
tended through more than half the period of the existence of the gov- 
ernment. And I know, my dear son, that neither parental authority 
nor parental example is necessary to induce you, in whatever capacity, 
public or private, you may be called to act, to devote yourself to the 
accomplishment of the same ends. 

Your affectionate Father, 



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The Removal op thb Deposits 3 

A Cootiniiakion of the Remarks commenced on Page 506 of the Third Yol- 
mne, on the Removal of the Deposits of the Pablic Monej, and on the 
Sabject of a National Bank, delivered in the Senate of the United States 
on Several Occasions in the Coarse of the Session of 1883-34. 

Report on the Removal of the Deposits ... 50 

A Report on the Removal of the Deposits, made from the Committee of 
Finance, in the Senate of the United States, on the 5th of Febraarj, 1834. 

The CoNTiNTJAivcE OF THE Bane Chabtse .... 82 

A Speech on moving for Leave to introduce a Bill to continoe the Bank of 
the United States for Six Years, delivered in the Senate, on the 18th of 
March, 1834. 

The Presidential Peotest 103 

A Speech delivered in the Senate of the United States, on the 7th of Maj, 
1834, on the Sabject of the President's Protest against the Resolution of 
the Senate of the 28th of March. 

The Post-Office 148 

Bemarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the Affiiin of tfie 
General Post-Office, on the 27th of Jane, 1834. 

Fbsnch Spoliations feior to 1800 152 

A Speech delivered in the Senate, on the 12th of Janaarj, 1835, on the 
BiU granting Indemnity to Citizens of the United States for TiwA 
SpdiatioQS on American Commerce prior to 1800. 



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Tee Appointing and Removing Power . . . • 179 

A Speech on the Appointing and Removing Power, delivered in the Sen- 
ate of the United States, on the I6th of Febmarj, 1835, on the Passage 
of the Bill entitled ** An Act to repeal the First and Second Sections of 
an Act to limit the Term of Service of certain Officers therein named.** 

The Regulation of the Deposits 200 

Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 26th of February, 
1835, on the Bill to regulate the Deposits of the Public Money. 

On the Loss of the Fortification Bill in 1835 . 205 

A Speedi delivered in the Senate of the United States, on the Uth of Jan- 
uary, 1836, on Mr. Benton's Resolutions for appropriating the Surplus 
Revenue to National Defence. 

Slavery and the Slave Trade in the District of Colitmbia 230 

Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 1 6th of Marcii, 
1836, on presenting sundry Abolition Petitions. 

The Deposit Banks 235 

Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 17th of March, 
1836, on the Deposit Banks. 

Payments for the Public Lands in Gold and Silver . 238 

Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 23d of April, 1836, 
on a Resolution submitted by Mr. Benton, providing that nothing but Gold 
and Silver should be received in Payment for the Public Lands. 

The Louisville Canal 247 

Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 25th of May, 1836, 
on the Bill to authorize the Purchase, on the Part of the Government, of the 
Private Stock in the Louisville and Portland Canal. 

Distribution of the Surplus Revenue .... 252 

A Speech delivered in the Senate of the United States, on the 31st of May, 
1836, on ilitroducing the Proposition for the Distribution of the Surplus 

The Specie Circular 265 

A Speech delivered in the Senate of the United States, on the 2l8t of De- 
cember, 1836, on the Subject of the Specie Circular. 


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Bemarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 16th of January, 
1837, bj way of Protest against expunging the Resolution of the 28th of 
March, 1834, from the Journal. 

A National Bank 298 

Bemarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 8th of February, 
1837, on presenting a Petition of a large Number of the Merchants of New 
York, for the Establishment of a National Bank. 

The Madison Papers 301 

Bemarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 20th of Febmaiy, 
1837, in Relation to the Purchase of the Manuscript Papers of Mr. Madison. 

The Reduction op the Dqty on Coal .... 304 

Bemaiks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 24th of Febmaiy, 

1837, in Relation to the Reduction of the Duty on Coal. 

Payment op the Foxthth Instalment of the Suepltjs Rev- 
enue 312 

A Speech delirered in the Senate of the United States, on the Uth of Sep- 
tember, 1837, on the Bill to postpone the Payment to the States of the 
Fourth Instalment of the Surplus Revenue. 

The Currency 324 

A Speech delivered in the Senate of the United States, on the 28th of Sep- 
tember, 1837, on the Currency, and on the New Plan for collecting and 
keeping the Public Moneys. 

Slavery in the District of Columbia • . . . 371 

Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 10th of January, 

1838, npon a Resolution moved by Mr. Clay as a Substitute for a Resolu- 
tion offered by Mr. Calhoun on Uie Subject of Slavery in the District of 

The Commonwealth Bank, Boston 377 

Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 17th of January, 
1838, in Relation to the Commonwealth Bank, Boston. 

The Right op Preemption to Actual Settlers on the 

Public Lands 391 

Remarks made ia the Senate of the United States, on the 29th of January, 
1888, on the PreCmpdon BUI 


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The Sub-Treasurt 402 

A Speech deUvered in the Senate of the United States, on the 31 st of Jann- 
aiy, 1838. 

Second Speech on the Sub-Teeasuet 424 

DeliTered in the Senate of the United States, on the 12th of March, 1838. 

Reply to Mb. Calhoun 500 

A Speech delivered in the Senate of the United States, on the 22d of March, 

1838, in Answer to Mr. Calhonn. 

Graduation of the Price of the Public Lands 523 

Bemarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 14th of January, 

1839, on the Bill to graduate the Price of the Public Lands, the Question 
being on the Indefinite Postponement of the Bill 

General Effects of Protection 528 

Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 3d of March, in 
Answer to some Parts of Mr. Calhoun's Speech of the 5th of February. 

The Treasury-Note Bill 540 

A Speech delirered in the Senate of the United States, on the 30th of March, 

1840, on the Treasury-Note Bill. 


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On Friday, March 7, in presenting a memorial from the building 
mechanics of the city and county of Philadelphia, Mr. Webster ad- 
dressed the Senate as follows : — 

I RISE, Sir, to perform a pleasing duty. It is to lay before the 
Senate the proceedings of a meeting of the building mechanics 
of the city and county of Philadelphia, convened for the purpose 
of expressing their opinions on the present state of the country, 
on the 24th of February. This meeting consisted of tfiree ihour 
sand persons^ and was composed of carpenters, masons, brick- 
makers, bricklayers, painters and glaziers, Hme-burners, plaster- 
ers, lumber-merchants, and others, whose occupations are con- 
nected with the building of houses. I am proud, Sir, that so 
respectable, so important, and so substantial a class of mechan- 
ics have intrusted me with the presentment of their opinions 
and feelings, respecting the present distress of the country, to 
the Senate. I am happy if they have seen, in the course pur- 
sued by me here, a policy favorable to the protection of their 
interest, and the prosperity of their families. These intelligent 
and sensible men, these highly useful citizens, have witnessed 
the effect of the late measures of government upon their own 
concerns ; and the resolutions which I have now to present fully 
express their convictions on the subject. They propose not to 
reason, but to testify ; they speak what they do know. 

Mr. President, the members of this meeting have not trans- 
nutted their proceedings by mail ; nor have they rested satisfied 

* A Continuation of the Rem&rks commenced on page 506 of the third volame, 
« tb« Removal of the Deposits of the PuUio Money, and on the Subject of a 
National Bank^ delivered in the Senate of the United States on seyerai occaaiont 
b the coone of the Session of 1833-34. 


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with merely cansing them, in any way, to reach the two houses 
of Congress, and to be read and disposed of in the ordinary 
manner. They have forwarded them by a committee of thirty 
persons of their own body, and those thirty persons are now 
within the walls of the Senate-chamber. I wish. Sir, that Sen- 
ators would converse with these gentlemen ; I wish they would 
embrace the opportunity of satisfying themselves of their in- 
telligence, their fairness, their freedom from the influence of all 
oblique or improper motives, and the unquestionable truth of the 
existence of that distress which they come here to represent 
Such a communication would convince honorable members that 
there is no pretence, no fiction, no exaggeration, in the whole 
matter ; but that all their words are words of truth and soberness. 

Mr. President, Congress has now been a good while in ses- 
sion. When we left our respective homes, the pressure had not 
come on ; and we left our friends and neighbors prosperous and 
happy. We have been here three months, without intercourse 
with our constituents and our neighbors. In the mean time, 
the whole condition of things is changed, fearfully changed; 
and I verily believe we do not fully know or feel the full extent 
of this change, and all the difficulty and distress which now 
pervade the people. If we were at home ; if we were each in our 
own respective circles, amidst the men of business, and min- 
gling with all classes ; and if we were hearing, as in that case 
we should hear, every hour, of more and more trouble, of new 
individual disasters, and of still increasing fear and alarm ; and 
if we could witness, as we then should witness, the despondency 
of those heads of families whose occupations and means of 
Irving have been thus suddenly cut off, we should be convinced 
that it is the imperative and solemn duty of Congress to relieve 
the country without a moment's delay. Sir, if half the time 
and the study which are now devoted to the finding out of 
plausible arguments to justify the Secretary of the Treasury 
were given to an honest and thorough inquiry into the real 
state of the country, I fully believe all would see the absolute 
necessity of immediate redress. 

Sir, while we sit here, in long debates, the country is plun- 
ging deeper and deeper in distress. We must not turn away 
from this. Sir, let us keep our eyes earnestly on the country ; 
for, be assured, the eyes of the country are kept earnestly on us. 


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And let ns, Sir, take this occasion to look into facts, and exam- 
ine particulars. Let ns see whether there be any thing, and if 
so what it is, of which these our fellow-dtizens complain. Do 
thej only join in a general cry raised by others ? Do they deal 
in unmeaning generalities, and set up an undefined and in- 
Tisible cause of distress? Sir, listen to the statement; hear 
the facts. The committee state, that eight thousand persons 
are ordinarily employed in building houses in the city and 
county of Philadelphia, a number which, with their families, 
would make quite a considerable town. They further state, 
tiiat the average number of houses which this body of me- 
chanics has built, for the last five years, is twelve hundred a 
year. The average cost of these houses is computed at two 
thousand doQars each. Here is a business, then, Sir, of two 
million four hundred thousand dollars a year. Such has been 
flie average of the last five years. And what is it now? Sir, 
the committee state that the business has fallen off seventy-five 
per cent, at least ; that is to say, that, at most, only one quarter 
part of their usual employment now remains. This is the sea- 
son of the year in which building contracts are made. It is now 
known what is to be the business of the year. Many of these 
persons, who have heretofore had, every year, contracts for sev- 
eral houses on hand, have this year no contract at alL They 
have been obliged to dismiss their hands, to turn them over to 
any scraps of employment they could find, or to leave them in 
idleness for want of any employment. But, Sir, let us look in- 
to the particulars of this case still a little further. It is well for 
us to dwell on them. As we have facts before us, useful for us 
to know, let us not hasten away from them. 

Sir, how has this building business usually been carried on? 
Has it been by employing these mechanics as mere day-labor- 
ers ? No, Sir ; that, probably, would be generally the case in 
other countries ; but in this, hitherto, and especially of late years, 
something better has been done by the building mechanics. 
Many of our young beginners, say the committee, buy a lot, 
partly for cash, but perhaps mostly on credit They go to work 
and build a house upon it, those who furnish bricks and lum- 
ber having a lien on the land for their security. They thus 
unite capital, or its substitute, credit, with their labor ; and by 
prudent management, in prosperous times, they are able to sell 


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their houses^ when thus built and completed, at prioes hand- 
somely remunerating them. They are thus proprietors and own- 
ers, as well as laborers ; and this practical ownership of prop- 
erty, this substantial interest in the conmiunity, is one of the 
causes which give independence and respectability to the me- 
chanics in the cities of the United States, far beyond the general 
experience of other countries. But see, Sir, how the Secretary's 
"experiment" has affected the interest of these persons. On 
the one hand, they can now obtain no new credits, they can 
commence no new operations on their own account, and other 
and richer persons will not build houses in the present state of 
things ; so that these mechanics are out of employment ; and, 
on the other hand, nobody buys, at fair and usuaJ prices, the 
houses which they have already built ; but they are obliged to 
sell them to capitalists, or others, at great loss. At the same 
time, therefore, that they are deprived of employment for thev 
present, and the hope of it for the future, they are subjected, 
also, to great sacrifices in the earnings of former years. 

These, Sir, are plain matters of fact ; and they are manifestly 
the results of the measures of government Have not these me- 
chanics, then, a right to complain ? Ought they to hold their 
tongues, and starve, in order to enable the Secretary to try his 
experiment ? Are they to be the willing victims of such fantas- 
tical and arrogant schemes ? No, Sir ; that is not their notion 
of patriotism and duty. They think the government was estab- 
lished for them, and for the rest of the people of the United 
States, for their protection, security, and happiness. They think 
it not a subject for the practice of every raw conceit, every pre- 
sumptuous theory, every impulse of arrogant and self-sufficient 
love of change. Sir, they are not the dupes of the Secretary's 
experiment ; and, if they can help it, they do not int-end to be its 
victims. They know full well in what purpose these measures 
originated, which have since obtedned the name of the " experi- 
ment" They think they have a right to demand of Congress 
not to sanction such purposes to their ruin. As American citi- 
zens, they demand the shelter of the laws; as tax-payers to 
government, they demand the protection of government ; as in- 
dustrious citizens, they demand security for their industry ; and 
they protest, solemnly protest — in their name, Sir, in their be- 
half, in their presence, I now enter their protest — against these 


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Hnnecessary and wanton measures, which destroy their property, 
break up their employments, and reduce them and their children 
to want and beggary. 

Afr. President, the Senate will perceive that, in one of the 
resolutions, this meeting of mechanics expressed their hope that 
tiie Governor of Pennsylvania would adhere to his former opin- 
ions, and lend his countenance and support to the restoration of 
the currency, by rechartering the bank. In this hope they have 
been disappointed. They feel it to be a great misfortune, cer- 
tainly, that they do not come here sustained by the government 
of the State at home. No doubt. Sir, it is a great misfortune ; 
at least, I agree with them in thinking it such. They most as- 
suredly had expected a different result of the Governor's delib- 
emtions. In addition to their intense individual interest in this 
great question, they feel an interest, also, in the public works of 
the State, which have come, or may come, to a stop, in conse- 
quence of the pressure of the times ; although it is true, perhaps, 
that they have not so direct an interest as their fellow-citizens 
of Lancaster County, whose memorial has just been presented, 
since the great western railway is to penetrate that important 
county from end to end. I refer to the proceedings of Gover- 
nor Wolf, Sir, with entire respect, personal and public ; but I 
cannot help expressing my deep regret at the views which he 
seems to have adopted. I would even hope that the subject has 
not yet passed beyond his reconsideration, because I am fully 
aware of the weight and influence of Pennsylvania on this great 
question. Yet, Sir, I see nothing in this proceeding to alter my 
own view in the slightest degree. The state of things is not 
changed. The promulgation of such opinions by the chief mag- 
istrate of Pennsylvania, is, in my judgment, unfortunate, be- 
cause its only effect is to prolong the sufferings of the country 
by postponing the only adequate remedy. 

Sir, the agitations of the country are not to be hushed by 
authority. Opinions, from however high quarters, will not quiet 
them. The condition of the nation calls for decided action, 
for the prompt interposition of Congress; and until Congress 
shall act, be it sooner or be it later, there will be no content,^ 
no repose, no restoration of former prosperity. Whoever sup- 
poses, Sir, that he, or that any man, can quiet the discon- 
t^its or hush the complaints of the people by merely saying, 


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" Peace, be still ! " mistakes, shockingly mistakes, the real con- 
dition of things. It is an agitation of interests, not of opinions ; 
a severe pressure on men's property and their means of living, 
not a barren contest about abstract sentiments. Even the voice 
of party, often so sovereign, is not of power to subdue discon- 
tents and stifle complaints. The people, Sir, feel great inter- 
ests to be at stake ; and they are rousing themselves to protect 
those interests. They consider the question to be, whether the 
government is made for the people, or the people for the govern- 
ment. They hold the former of these two propositions, and they 
mean to prove it. 

Mr. President, this measure of the Secretary has produced a 
degree of evil that cannot be borne. Talk about it as we will, 
it cannot be borne. A tottering state of credit; cramped means; 
loss of property and loss of employment ; doubts of the condi- 
tion of others ; doubts of their own condition ; constant fear of 
failures and new explosions; an awful dread of the future, — 
Sir, when a consciousness of all these things accompanies a 
man at his breakfast, his dinner, and his supper ; when it at- 
tends him through his hours both of labor and rest; when it 
even disturbs and haunts his dreams ; and when he feels, too, 
that that which is thus gnawing upon him is the pure result of 
foolish and rash measures of government, — depend upon it, he 
will not bear it. A deranged and disordered currency ; the ruin 
of occupation; distress for present means; the prostration of 
credit and confidence; and all this without hope of improve- 
ment or change, — is a state of things which no intelligent peo- 
ple can long endure. 

On Tuesday, March 18th, Mr. Webster presented a memorial from 
citizens of Boston, with the following remarks. 

It will be perceived by the Senate, that I have a roll before 
me of no ordinary dimensions. It is a protest, respectfully ad- 
dressed to both Houses of Congress, against the recent proceed- 
ings of the executive government in regard to the public moneys 
of the United States, and urgently requesting Congress, by the 
interposition of its own just authority, to restore the Constita- 


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tion and laws to that free and proper action which the public 
interest and prosperity demand. This paper, Sir, proceeds 
from a place not altogether obscure, not altogether unknown in 
the history of the United States. It comes from the people of 
Boston, assembled in Faneuil Hall ; it comes from those walls 
in which the earliest accents of independence rang ; from under 
that roof beneath which our young American Liberty shook her 
^wings, ere she went forth^ for the first time, to fly over a thou- 
sand hills, and to proclaim independence to three millions of 
souls. It was sent by those, and the sons of those, who, in 
the same place, in '74, '75, and '76, had heard the voices of 
Otis, of Warren, and of Hancock, and who gave to those dis- 
tinguished speakers as much patriotic impulse as they received 
from them. 

This paper is signed by 6,841 independent voters, tax-payers, 
and men of property of the city of Boston. Here are no men of 
straw. This paper presents the names of men of different hab- 
its and occupations, electors of that city ; and, so far as I know, 
of a greater number of persons than any excited election has 
ever called together. The names are here for the inspection 
of the Senate ; and my colleague, who is well acquainted with 
many of them, can vouch for their high standing and respect- 
ability. Whatever character the memorial may bear elsewhere, 
it here challenges investigation. The sentiments of the meeting 
at which the memorial was agreed upon approached nearer to 
a feeling of unanimity than is usual on such occasions; and 
the strictest investigation will be unable to detect in it any 
fault, even if accidental error should be discovered. The memo- 
rial has no secret communication with the government, or any 
department of it I have heard, it is true, of attempts which 
have been made to influence some departments of the govern- 
ment by communications not destined to see the light or to 
reach the public ear. I will not say that by such communica- 
tions the President has been deceived, but I will say, that, if he 
listens to them, there is great danger of his being deceived ; and 
I hope he will look with great caution at aiiy paper which 
oomes to him without his possessing a full knowledge of those 
who framed it. 

An honorable Senator from Tennessee, early in the session, ex- 
pressed an opinion, with regard to these representations to Con- 


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gress, equally sound and liberal He said he looked with dis* 
trust on any proceedings which had been got up by those who 
bad any interest in the offices of the government No such in« 
terest influenced those whose memorial I now present They 
have no party feelings which would induce them to uphold the 
evils produced by the measures of those who administer the 
government, and they have no motives to make them causeless 
fault-finders with the chief magistrate. He has recently been 
with them, and they have received him with hospitality and 
cordiality. Many of them, though not all, preferred him for 
the distinguished station to which he has been elevated; but 
all saw that a majority so large as to command respect had 
placed him at the head of the government, and they cheerfully 
acquiesced. They wish nothing else but that he should com- 
fdete the second term of his presidency with as much honor as 
has distinguished that of any of his illustrious predecessors. 
They are not eager complainants against the measures of the 
administration; they are not swift witnesses in the cause in 
which they are engaged; they did not rush forward to make 
known their sense of their own grievances at an early hour; 
they have not raised the cry of distress, whether distress existed 
or not ; they come to speak their sentiments with moderation 
and firmness ; they come to speak of their sufferings, and to de- 
smbe a state of things they know to exist 

This paper has been brought here by a committee of gentle- 
men, of whom, as they are my neighbors and friends, I can hard- 
ly speak with delicacy ; and especially as some of them are as 
well known to Congress as to myself, and need no recommen- 
dation from me. They are gentiemen of different relations in 
life, social and political. They come here to testify to what 
they know ; to represent a state of things which they believe the 
majority of Congress cannot realize, and which they believe they 
cannot, without actual and personal participation, understand. 
Their mission is to Congress ; they have no order to go else- 
where for relief, have no message for any other department of 
the government; and, believing that the evils of which they com- 
plain admit only of legislative remedy, they come to the legisla^ 
ture. Believing the law to have been violated, they come to 
Congress ; believing that distress exists to a calamitous extent, 
and believing tiiat no other power on earth can relieve it, their 


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eMiimBeioii is to the Senate and House of Representatives of 
iht United States exdnsively. Their protest is on such a sub* 
ject, that no consideration on earth could have induced them 
to sign such a paper, had it not been for that alarming, shock- 
ing state of things, so deeply affecting the public interests. Has 
not all incredulity on the subject been satisfied ? Have not the 
whole of the population, from Maine to New Orleans, been sat- 
isfied? Have not all their doubts been silenced? If there be, 
on the vast surface of this happy country, on the sides of its fer- 
tile hills, and in the soil of its rich valleys, — if there be any spot 
so favored tiiat distress has not reached it, let the inhabitants 
of that spot rejoice ; but let them rejoice with fear and with 
trembling, for so sure as the light of the sun, if I may com^ 
pare what is beneficent in action with that which is delete- 
rious,^- so sure as the light of the sun will, in due time, peiie« 
Izate ihe deepest shades of the forest, so sure is it that the 
distress which now afifects Ae industry and prosperity of a great 
part <rf ike country must act everywhere and be felt everywhere. 
In the opinion of these memorialists, the act of the Secretary of 
the Treasury in removing the public deposits from the Bank of 
the United States plainly violates the chartered rights of that 
corporation. And is it not so ? The act is unrepealed. The 
benefit that was intended to be conferred on the bank for the 
services it was to render the government is not at present 
Mjoyed by it. It has been deprived, then, of one part, and 
that the principal part, of the consideration which formed ihe 
ground of the contract which has been entered into with the 
government. How has it been deprived ? The courts are open ; 
has it been summoned into them ? The law is in operation ; 
has it been made to act on the bank as a delinquent corpora- 
tion? No. No one arraigns it before a tribunal. Nobody 
brings it to trial for a violation of law. It exists, has its func- 
tions, as a corporation ; but it is deprived of one of the princi- 
pal advantages secured to it by its charter, and deprived for such 
reasons as are before th^ Senate and before the country. 

The memorialists are not unaware, that, if rights are attacked, 
attempts will be made to render odious those whose rights ar6 
violated. Power always seeks such subjects upon which to try 
its experiments. The individuals to whom I have reference 
I»otest against the executive denunciation of the bank. They 


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protest cigainst the executive chief magistrate raising, waging^ 
and carrying on war against that corporation. They think they 
see the cause that has produced their present distress in the re- 
lations that have existed between the government and the banL 
May we not distinctly see the origin of that controversy which 
has so much agitated, and still agitates, the country, and which 
carries so much distress to every family ? Has it not assumed 
from the beginning, and does it not still assume, the character 
of a warfare between the President of the United States and the 
government of the Bank of the United States ? It has not only 
been said in the common vehicles of party exultation and com- 
mendation, but it has been said within the walls of Congress, 
that, in triumphing over that institution, in conquering it, in 
bringing it to tiie feet of the President, he would earn for him- 
self a more flourishing garland, a more glorious victory, than he 
won by the battle of New Orleans. The sentiment from which 
that mode of commendation sprung is easy to be seen. I fear 
there is a love of conquest, a thirst for victorious struggles, a 
delight in triumphing, which has brought on the conflict between 
the administration and the bank, while the interests of the peo- 
ple are crushed between active and defensive operations. 

The memorialists think that such a controversy is out of 
place between the President and the bank, that the origin of his 
action should be far above it, that neither the bank nor any other 
corporation should entitle itself to any share of his personal hos- 
tility. They therefore protest against the continuance of that 
war between the executive on the one hand and the bank on the 
other, as it is destructive to them, injurious to the whole country, 
and not a little discreditable to its character in the eyes of the 
world. They protest against the act of the executive in regard 
to the public treasure, as tending to bring about that state of 
things which the gentleman from Kentucky has so often present- 
ed to the Senate, the union of the purse and the sword. They 
recognize the chief magistrate as the commander-in-chief of the 
army and navy of the United States ; they recognize in Con- 
gress the power and duty to guard the national resources ; and 
they think that the withdrawal of the public revenue from a 
place fixed by law, and settled by the charter of the bank, for 
reasons connected in no way with the safe-keeping of the mon- 
eys, but for opinion's sake, is an unauthorized act After rea- 


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Boning, and after inquiry upon the subject, the moneys were ac- 
knowledged to be safe. Congress having recently acted on the 
subject, and having seen no reason for the change, they are of 
opinion, that the reasons given for the removal of the public 
treasure are altogether insufficient. 

They think that the effect of the measure is to augment the 
rapidity of a tendency which they believe to have been cherished 
by the government for some years past; and that is a tendency 
to increase power and influence in the executive hands. They 
are of opinion, that the removal of the public revenue from 
a custody where it was under the eye of Congress to a custody 
where it is only under the eye of the Secretary of the Treasury, 
is one great proof of the existence of the tendency to increase ex- 
ecutive power. Are they not right ? Where are the public treas- 
ures of the United States ? No man in this Senate knows ; no 
man in the other house knows. The last time that the Senate 
heard of them, they were deposited in certain banks not created 
or fixed by the will of Congress. They may have been changed, 
for aught the Senate knows, within the last half-hour, to some 
place which it knows not What was the condition of the treas- 
ure six months ago ? Was it situated as it is now ? Did not 
every member know where the money was then ? and had not 
Congress an account of it, and could it not see that it was all 
there? Has Congress any such right now? Has that house, 
or the other, the power to go to the Bank of the Metropolis in 
this city, or to the Manhattan Bank in New York, in order 
to see that the money deposited in those places is safe ? The 
executive has now the possession of the public treasure, and 
Congress has no control over it. It is a fact not to be denied, 
that every dollar of the public money, ordinarily eight to ten 
millions, from the moment of its receipt at the custom-house 
and the land-offices to the moment of its appropriation under 
the authority of law, is under the entire, exclusive government 
of the Secretary of the Treasury, Congress knows not where, 
Congress has not directed how. 

The memorialists think that this withdrawing of the public 
money from the inspection of Congress, from the guardianship 
of Congress, and placing it where it is subject to the guardian- 
ship and control of the officers of the executive government, is 
an encroachment upon the just rights of both houses of Con- 

vou IV. 2 


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gress. They protest against that violation of the spirit of the 
Constitution. They profess themselves to be in favor of a na- 
tional bank ; but that is a matter which they would leave most 
cheerfully to the wisdom of Congress. They do not insist upon 
a national bank ; that may be a measure of expediency or inex- 
pediency ; but they do insist that the law shall be upheld, that 
the power of Congress shall continue to be exercised in regard to 
the disposal of the public revenue, and that the public treasure 
shall be under the authority of those who have a right to the 
control of it according to law. They declare that, in the present 
state of the country, looking to the effect of those measures and 
the extent of the evil, they see no remedy but in Congress; 
they see no remedy till Congress shall take up the subject, and 
determine to act by its authority, and establish such measures 
of relief as its wisdom shall dictate. 

Mr. President, I entirely agree with them, I agree with them 
altogether, that relief must come from Congress, or through Con- 
gress. But I wish to say that relief, though it come through 
the instrumentality of Congress, must have a higher origin. It 
cannot come from the executive department in the first place ; 
the case is past the surgery of all such practitioners. No state 
doctors, beginning where they may, or ending where they 
may, have power over the present affliction of the community. 
Not one of them can pluck up this deep-rooted sorrow. It is a 
case in which the patient must minister to himself. The people 
must take the remedy into their own hands; they must act, 
indeed, on the case through Congress, but they must act by 
their own will and their own power. 

The spirit, and the only spirit, that can move over the face of 
these waters, with power to reduce chaos to order; the only 
spirit that can cause this elemental strife to subside, and the sun 
again to appear in the east, — is the intelligent, manly, free spirit 
of the American people, summoned by the state of the country, 
and by the state of their own interests, to come and put a check 
to such usurpations of power, and to apply that remedy which 
they, and they alone, can apply. 


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Ok Friday, March 28th, on presenting a memorial from citizens of 
Albany, Mr. Webster said : — 

Mb. President, I have the honor to present to the Senate a 
memorial from the city of Albany. 

New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Boston have already 
laid before Congress the opinions entertained in those cities by 
men in all dasses of society, and of all occupations and condi- 
tions in life, respecting the conduct of the administration in 
removing the public deposits. To these Albany now joins her 
voice, a voice not less clear, not less strong, not less unanimous, 
than that of her sister cities. 

It is well known to you, Sir, and to gentlemen on the floor of 
the Senate, that Albany, for its size, is an extremely commercial 
dty. Connected with the sea by one of the noblest rivers on 
earth, it is placed, also, at a point at or near which many hun- 
dred miles of inland navigation, from the West and from the 
North, accumulate the products of a vast and fertile interior, 
and deliver them for further transport down the North River, 
by sailing vessels or steamers. In return for these riches of 
inland industry, thus abundantly poured forth to the sea, Al- 
bany receives, of course, large amounts of foreign merchan- 
dise, to be forwarded to the interior, and to be distributed 
for consumption in the western districts of the State, along the 
shores of the lakes, and even to the banks of the Mississippi 
itself. It is necessarily, therefore, a place of vast exchanges of 
property ; in other words, a place of great trade. 

Albany, I believe, Sir, has a population of twenty-eight or 
thirty thousand people. It has given, I learn, on interesting 
occasions, nearly, but not quite, thirty-eight hundred votes. 
The paper whose folds I am now unrolling, and which I 
have risen to present to the chair, bears twenty-eight hundred 
names, all believed to be qualified electors. Great pains has 
been taken to be accurate in this particular ; and if there be a 
single name to this paper not belonging to a qualified voter, it 
is here not only by mistake, but after careful scrutiny has been 
had, for the purpose of avoiding such mistakes. 

Every man. Sir, whose name is here, is believed to have a 
right to say, ^' I am an American citizen ; I possess the elec- 
tive franchise ; I hold the right of suffrage ; I possess and I 


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exercise an individual share in the sovereign power of the 
State ; I am one of those principals, whose agent government 
is ; and I expect from government a proper regard to my in- 

It will thus be seen, Sir, that this paper expresses the sen- 
timents of three fourths as many citizens of Albany as have 
ever been collected, on any occasion, at the polls of the city. 
What these sentiments are, the Senate will be at no loss to 
understand, when the paper shall be read. Its signers possess 
the faculty of making themselves fully understood. 

This memorial is brought hither for the purpose of being laid 
before Congress, by a committee of eighteen persons. Some 
of these gentlemen are well known within the walls of the Cap- 
itol, and none of them altogether unknown to members of this 
or the other house. They come. Sir, to vouch for the general 
respectability of the signers to the memorial. They come to 
answer for them, as persons capable of perceiving, not only the 
general fact that recent measures of government have deranged 
the business of society, but of seeing also precisely how those 
measures have operated on their own business, their own em- 
ployments, and their own prosperity. 

Unpromising, Sir, as the task is, ungrateful, nay, almost hope- 
less as it is, this committee have not declined the wish of their 
fellow-citizens, that they would bring this solemn appeal to the 
notice of the two houses of Congress. The Senate can learn 
from them, by personal inquiry, that there are included among 
the memorialists individuals of every class, occupation, em- 
ployment, profession, and trade, in society. The members of 
the committee come to make good the declarations of the me- 
morial as to the state of things actually existing at Albany. 

Albany, Sir, has been flourishing and prosperous, and seemed 
rapidly rising to greater and greater heights of commercial im- 
portance. There are circumstances which would appear to 
have favored her, and to have enabled her to stand the shock 
better than her neighbors. In addition to her capital, it has been 
understv^od that rhe wa« benefited in her money operations, to a 
considerable extent, by the use or the custody of State funds. 
But the Senate will not be surprised to learn, notwithstanding 
all her advantages, that she has not escaped the general dis- 
aster. Whatever else is to be said against the Secretary's meas- 


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ures, they cannot be charged with being partial in their opera- 
tion. They have the merit of impartiality, inasmuch as they 
produce universal distress. 

Sir, our condition is peculiar. One hardly knows how to 
describe it In the midst of all the bounties of Providence, and 
in a lime of profound peace, we are poor. Our Secretary of 
the Treasury, Sir, is not Midas. His touch does not turn every 
tiling to gold. It seems rather to turn every thing Into stone. 
It stops the functions, and the action, of organized social life, 
and congeals the whole body politic. It produces a kind of in- 
stantaneous petrifaction. We see still the form of our once 
active social system, but it is without life ; we can trace the 
veins along its cold surface, but they are bloodless ; we see the 
muscles, but they are motionless ; the external form is yet fair 
and goodly, but there is a cessation of the principle of life 

Sir, if one could look at the state of the country at this mo- 
ment, who had never heard what that " Experiment " is which 
the Secretary is trying, he would naturally suppose him to be 
some necromancer, some Prospero, who had power over the 
principle of action in the whole nation, and who was amusing 
himself, by the exercise of that power, in seeing what sort of a 
spectacle a great, busy, stirring community would exhibit, when 
his wand should bring all its members to a sudden pause, check 
them in a moment of great activity, and hold every one in the 
precise attitude in which he should be found when the charm 
begins; as painters, though they cannot represent progressive 
action on the canvas, can yet represent action suddenly arrest- 
ed ; or as the interior of the mountains discloses animals caught 
in fall life and vigor, and imbedded for ever in the subsiding 
elements of the general deluge. 

Or perhaps. Sir, such a spectator might suppose that our Sec- 
retary had been imitating infantile curiosity, which thrusts its 
busy fingers into the opened watch, for the sake of seeing how 
pretty its little wheels will look when they all stand stilL 

But whatever a disinterested beholder might think of the man- 
ner in which the Secretary is amusing himself with " experi- 
ments '^ upon the nation, the people of Albany have had quite 
enough of experiment They find it efficient for every thing but 
good There are some things, they admit, which it has fully 


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proved. It has proved the rashness, the delusion, and ahnost 
the insanity, of those who undertook it 

One of the most visible effects of this measure, to the people 
of Albany, is its check to the grov^^ih of the city. It has been 
fast increasing in houses and in the number of its inhabitants. 
But here are persons well acquainted with the facts and circum- 
stances, who declare that the houses in building, this year, are 
not one twentieth the number of the last year. What is to be 
said in answer to that fact ? The carpenter and the mason are 
standing still, with the rule and the trowel in their hands, to see 
when the Secretary shall have done with his experiment Al- 
bany is a great lumber market The very large sum of two 
millions of dollars is usually paid annually for this article in 
that city. But there is now no demand for it The same 
causes operating elsewhere which operate in Albany, the tim- 
ber is not wanted, cannot be used, and cannot be paid for. 
A great coasting trade is also, in ordinary times, carried on 
from Albany. Lumber and other articles, brought down the 
canals, are taken down the river, and scattered all along the 
shore, almost to the eastern extremity of the Union. And we 
all know what numbers of sloops and steamboats usually cover 
the surface of the Hudson, from its mouth to Troy. Last year, 
as I learn, from thirty to thirty-five steam tow-boats found em- 
ployment between Troy and Albany and New York. This 
great extent of navigation gave wages, of course, to multitudes 
of industrious men, whose present power of finding employ- 
ment may be judged of by the fact that six or eight of these 
boats are at this time adequate to the calls of commerce. The 
whole business, it is said, has fallen off at least two hundred 
per cent 

It is natural to ask. Sir, how the times have affected the use- 
fulness of the great canal, the true glory of New York, that im- 
perishable monument of the fame of a great man ; a man of 
conceptions large enough to embrace a high and noble purpose, 
and who had steadiness to pursue that purpose through evil 
report and good report, let the strife of temporary party do its 
best and its worst, until he had accomplished it I am told, 
Sir, that along the line of this great work the quantity of flour 
now ready to be embarked, when the season of business com- 
mences, is not more than equal to one tenth of the amount, last 


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year. The wheat is in the country, but there is no demand for 
it in the city. The fanners and the millers are obliged to keep 
it on hand. At the commencement of the harvest last year, 
wheat was worth a dollar a bushel in the western part of New 
York, and where, as I am now informed, it goes off heavily at 
68 and 70 cents. There are cases in which the article has been 
carried to the usual place of sale, and carried back again, for 
want of buyers. Indeed, an instance is mentioned of a vessel 
which proceeded, from one of the towns on the river, to New 
York, lay at the wharf a week, wdthout being able to sell a dol- 
lar's worth of her cargo, and then returned back with it to her 
place of departure. 

It will be at once seen, that those measures of government 
of which the memorialists complain neutralize the benefits of 
the canal. They lower the price of wheat in the western part 
of the State, as much as the opening of the canal raised it 
The cause of all this loss is obvious. There is no market; and 
there is no market because there is no money ; and there is no 
money because the measures of government have deranged the 
currency, checked circulation, and shaken credit 

One of the gentlemen now here is extensively concerned in 
the business of transportation on the Western and Northern 
canals. He is connected with lines which own, together, two 
hundred canal-boats, and usually employ fourteen or fifteen hun- 
dred men, and as many horses. An immediate loss of em- 
ployment for at least half of this capital and these hands is 
already among the consequences of the Secretary's experiment 
This shows. Sir, how the measures of government affect wages, 
ay, Sir, wages, the only source of the poor man's income. Be 
it remembered, that the administration is waging war for the 
benefit of the poor. It has attacked the bank, laid hold of the 
public treasures, disregarded the votes of Congress, and thrown 
the whole country into a state of violent excitement, out of pure 
sympathy for the poor, and to protect them against the grinding 
power of moneyed corporations ! Well, Sir, are the poor better 
off? Are wages higher? Is employment more easily obtained? 
Is labor more richly rewarded? Let the Senate judge of this 
matter, when I state, as I am authorized to do, that men in Al- 
bany, who, three months ago, were earning and receiving a doU 
lar and a quarter a day^ six days in the week, are now soliciting 


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employment for two days in the week only, and for sixty-two 
cents a day ! And other industrious men, who were receiving a 
dollar a day, are now content to work for their board only. 

There is in the city a large manufacture of iron castings for 
stoves, hollow ware, and machinery. Since December it is 
said that this manufacture has fallen off one half, and a hun- 
dred hands have been discharged in a day, most of them heads 
of families. If this be so. Sir, and the case be but a common 
one, a fearful account must be running up against those who 
have heedlessly brought such calamities on the laboring classes. 
There is also, I hear, a very extensive fur business done in the 
place ; a single establishment employing no less than five hun- 
dred men and women in the manufacture of caps, of which 
article no less a number than two thousand is manufactured 
daily, in the season of work, if any one can conceive where they 
find heads for so many. From causes like those which affect 
other manufactures, this, I hear, is also unfavorably affected, as 
regards the great number of persons to whom it gives employ- 

It would be easy, Sir, to run into other details and other par- 
ticrdars. It would be easy to follow the effects of this derange- 
ment of the currency, not only into all classes, but until we find 
it affecting the concerns of every individual, and touching the 
home comforts of every family. But such detail would be only 
repetition. All evidence and all argument must be lost on those 
who do not already, from what the country exhibits on all sides, 
see, and feel, and acknowledge, that the distress of the times is 
universal and unparalleled. 

If, indeed, these memorialists, or other petitioners from the 
same State, needed confirmation in their representation of the 
present state of things, it might be abundantly found in the late 
communication fi^om the executive of New York to the legis- 
latiu'e. Distress is no fiction, when the extraordinary measure 
of a State loan is necessary, to sustain the common operations 
of business, and to give new credit, or at least new power of 
accommodation, to the banks. It is no trifle, certainly, when 
such a measure is proposed, and when it is recommended, not 
indeed by the executive himself, but by those who support and 
justify it, by reference to precedents in Revolutionary times, and 
in the days of State bills of credit It is no merely pretended 


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state of alarm, when the banks find two millions of their own 
paper returning upon them, while they curtail their loans but 
six hondred thousand dollars. This message, Sir, admits a 
state of things, and argues upon a state of things, the existence 
of which has hitherto been loudly denied by necurly all the friends 
of the administration. As to the measure proposed by the ex- 
ecutive of New York, it becomes me, of course, to say little of 
it, and, indeed, to say nothing, except so far as not only New 
York, but the whole country, may have an interest in it. I ab- 
stain from any thing of a local nature, or belonging exclusively 
to State politics and State concerns. But, Mr. President, I may 
be permitted, I hope, to say, that it fills me with deep and un- 
feigned regret for the present, and with sad, sad forebodings for 
the future, to see the great State of New York, instead of con- 
cuning in experienced and well-approved national measures to 
promote a national object, intent only on applying local means 
for local relief. 

Instead of giving a lead, in the national councils, to meas- 
ures of a general character, such as embrace the whole country, 
and such as she herself has heretofore repeatedly supported, it 
is painful to see her denying to this government powers so long 
acknowledged by herself rightfully to belong to it, and to find 
her driven to measures of at least a novel and questionable 
nature, to uphold those interests which she, and a majority of 
all the other States, have heretofore not only admitted, but stren- 
uously contended, were confided to the just guardianship of the 
general government. 

I observed the other day. Sir, and I said it neither for the sake 
of sounding an alarm, nor of turning a sentence, that, if this 
experiment of the executive government is suffered to go on, it 
will bring us to consequences nearly touching the powers and 
the continued action of this government I verily think so. As 
surely, Sir, as you sit in that chair, or as I stand on this floor, 
our tendencies at the present moment are strong towards dis- 
organization, to the times of State securities, bills of credit, 
separate State currencies, and paper money ; and, if those ten- 
dencies be not seasonably arrested, they will make shipwTcck of 
our highest interests. The chain of a common currency, a com- 
mon standard of value, a common medium of exchange, is in 
imminent danger of being broken. Induced by our relinquish- 


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ment of our own just rights, and the abandonment of our own 
proper powers and duties, individual States, under an alleged 
necessity, will march on, but without concert or cooperation, to 
greater and greater control over the currency of the country. 

Whatever gentlemen may say of the limitation of the power 
of Congress to the exclusive regulation of coin merely, I cannot 
but be persuaded, that that authority which is to regulate by 
paramount laws the commerce between the States must of 
course regulate that, whatever it may be, which is to perform 
the office of money in carrying on this commerce. Can any 
man maintain, that the sovereign power over commercial regu- 
lation rests in Congress, but that the power, nevertheless, of reg- 
ulating the great agent of that commerce, money, is vested in 
twenty-four different States ? Is our system thus disjointed and 
deformed ? I repeat. Sir, what I have so often said, and what I 
believe with the utmost sincerity of conviction to be trae, that, 
unless by wise legislative provisions, enacted by the authority 
of Congress, we secure the safety of the currency, we are not 
only in great peril of a paper-money system, but we omit to 
maintain that which is one of the best, the easiest, the most 
grateful, and the strongest ties of our national Union. 

When it had become doubtful whether the present Bank of 
the United States would be continued, and especially after it 
was supposed probable that no bank would hereafter exist, under 
the authority of Congress, we know what followed. Gigantic 
projects of State banks sprang up everywhere. We hear of 
propositions for new banks, with very large capitals, in Ken- 
tucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and Louisiana. We see a motion in 
the legislature of New York for a new bank with a capital of 
ten millions of dollars, only giving way to a proposal for a 
loan of four millions; it may probably be much larger. We 
see, at the same time, in Pennsylvania, an application for a 
bank with ten millions capital, and a power to have branches in 
other States. 

Mr President, we are thus breaking off from our accustomed 
course of public policy on this great question of the currency. 
We are throwing its disposition into other hands ; and we are 
doing this, because the constitutional power of Congress to 
establish a bank is denied ; denied in quarters where it has here- 
tofore been most zealously asserted. The respectable gentle* 


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men vrho represent the State of New York in the Senate, both 
of them, stand up now, in the forty -fifth year of the government, 
and declare, as representatives of the State of New York, that 
Congress transcends its power when it establishes a bank ! This, 
Sir, is not a little extraordinary and portentous. 

Mr. President, I have faith, stronger than that of most others, 
I believe, in the duration of this government ; and I mean, if pos- 
sible, to die believing ; but I confess I sometimes feel misgiv- 
ings, when I see powers of government, of the very highest im- 
portance, held to be constitutional or unconstitutional according 
to the prevailing party politics of the moment; powers found in 
the Constitution to-day at the first glance, but not to be found 
in it to-morrow by the most searching construction ; powers to- 
day safe, necessary, and useful; to-morrow, unsafe, unnecessary, 
and destructive of liberty. Sir, when these respectable gen- 
tlemen were in their cradles, or at school, the delegation from 
New York, in both houses of Congress, gave their unanimous 
support to the bill incorporating the first Bank of the United 
States. They concurred, to a man, with General Washington 
in affirming the constitutionality of a bank, owning its expedi- 
ency, and actually creating and establishing it. This was the 
constitutional opinion of New York in 1791. In her delega- 
tion, in both houses, were gentlemen who had been active and 
leading members in the Convention which formed the Con- 
stitution, and had just come fresh from that great work into 
Congress. Having helped to frame it, having argued it before 
the people, they came now to administer it. With the Consti- 
tntion before them, the work of their own hands, with a perfect 
knowledge of their own purposes, and the purposes of others, 
in framing it, they voted to establish a bank. We know that, 
of all the members of the first Congress who had been mem- 
bers of the Convention, very few voted against the bank on any- 
ground whatever. A great majority, I believe three or four to 
one, were in favor of it on all grounds. New York, at least, 
was unanimous ; with her there was no doubt or hesitation. 

In 1811, the charter of this first bank expired. It was a day 
of great party excitement, and party did unquestionably mingle 
itself with the proposition for the renewal of the charter. The 
constitutional question was then raised, and the bill for continu- 
ing the bank was rejected, if I remember, by the majority of a 


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single vote in one house, and by the casting vote of the presid • 
ing officer in the other. Of those voting against the renewal, 
some proceeded on grounds of constitutional objection, and oth- 
ers on other grounds, as was recited to us, fully and particularly, 
some sessions ago, by an honorable gentleman then a member 
of the Senate from Maryland. 

But those who at that time voted against continuing the first 
bank found, by even a short experience, that they had taken an 
erroneous ^dew of the subject. Within three years, they became 
themselves strenuous advocates for a bank ; and when the bills 
of 1814 and 1815 were before Congress, the New York mem- 
bers, generally speaking, were among their most zealous advo- 
cates ; or, if any of them were opposed, such opposition did not 
rest at all on any constitutional objections. Bills, Sir, which I 
thought were unconstitutional, bills which I could not vote for, 
bills which I thought contained such provisions as transcended 
the power of Congress, such, for example, as that exempting 
the proposed bank from specie payment, found zealous and able 
supporters among the members from New York; none more 
able, none more zealous. And, Sir, how was it in 1816, when 
the present bank itself was established ? Was the great State 
of New York then found standing on constitutional objec- 
tions? Was she found opposing the bank, as a great mon- 
eyed power, dangerous to liberty, establishing an aristocracy, 
and without an inch of ground to stand on in the constitutional 
power of Congress ? Was judicial authority then rejected, all 
precedents resisted, and the acquiescence of the people and of 
the States set at naught and derided? Was there even the 
slightest doubt expressed of the power of Congress to make a 
bank ? Far from it. Of the twenty-seven members from New 
York, then in the other house, only seven voted against the bill ; 
and most of those seven are known to have so voted, not on 
constitutional grounds, but on particular objections to some 
parts of the bill. Indeed, most or all of the seven had not long 
before voted for a bank, with provisions somewhat different, and 
such as suited them better. Constitutional scruples, therefore, 
there were none. One of the votes in the Senate, it is possible, 
though I know not the fact, may have been given on such scru- 
ples ; but it is safe to say, that at least nine tenths of the dele- 
gation of New York, in both houses of Congress, either actively 


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supported the establishment of the present bank, or fully and 
expressly admitted the power of Congress to create it. It was 
created; they helped to create it; without them it could not 
have been created. It is the creature of New York opinions 
and New York power. And in all this, Sir, the legislature ac- 
quiesced, and the people acquiesced. 

Now, Sir, when this plain and incontestable history of the 
past is contrasted with the solemn declarations, the labored ar- 
guments, and the patriotic invocations to liberty, which we have 
heard uttered on this floor against all national banks, and all 
power of Congress to establish such banks, is it without reason 
that I consider such changes of opinion and conduct as things 
not auspicious to the future progress of our government ? Is it 
mere faint-heartedness which brings on these forebodings, when 
I thus see that opinions, on great questions, of the power of 
Congress, change their hues, and run through all the colors of 
the prism, according to the shifting attitudes and varying posi- 
tions of temporary political parties ? 

But, Mr. President, if I may be allowed, since it affects ques- 
tions of great common concern, to speak of opinions existing in 
States to which I do not belong, I fully believe, notwithstanding 
all appearances to the contrary, that three fourths of the people 
of the State of New York always have been, and now are, 
clearly of opinion that a Bank of the United States is a consti- 
tutional, a useful, and a necessary institution of this government 
I speak, Sir, of the spontaneous sentiments of the people, and 
not of such principles of action as, being recommended by or- 
ganized bodies, a majority of the people may be induced to 
adopt as the basis of political and party associations, and act 
upon accordingly ; and I entertain not a particle of doubt, that, 
if the question could be put to-day to the whole people of New 
York, unaffected by collateral matters, three fourths of the whole 
would be in favor of a bank. Nor would it be at all difficult to 
g^e reasons for this opinion, notwithstanding any inference to 
the contrary from occurrences here. 

But, Sir, I am pursuing these reflections farther than the occa- 
sion will justify. I may not. Sir, presume to address myself to 
the people of the State of New York ; I may not take upon 
myself the character of an adviser of them ; but since the good 
citizens of Albany, through their committee, have done me the 

VOL. IV. 3 


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honor to make me their organ on this occasion, I hope ihep will 
forgive me if I say to them, that, for the evils which they snifiar^ 
they themselves must assist to furnish the remedy. A gentle- 
man on the other side of the Senate has said, and said truly^ 
that these great questions must be settled at the polls. To the 
polls, then, let them be brought If the right of suffrage be not 
an idle form, if self-government be not a delusion, if there be 
any thing true in the idea of popular intelligence, then political 
mismanagement must be corrected by political elections. I have 
said so often that redress can come only from the people them^ 
selves^ that it must fatigue the ear to hear it again. I beseech 
the good citizens of Albany to lay this truth to heart 

If they are in earnest, if they really feel the evils of misrule, 
let them touch the right spring to restore proper action to tiie 
machinery of gov^nment; let them take hold of the right lever. 
They complain of violation of law ; let them seek to obtain 
the passage of other laws which shall redress such violation. 
They complain of executive encroachment; as far as depends 
t)n them, let there be a legislature which shall allow no such en- 
croachment Some of them, with other citizens of the State, 
have lately acted on the principles of a motto, taken from the 
words of a great and good man, now removed from this scene 
of things. I would beseech those who have adopted that senti- 
ment for one occasion to apply it to another of still broader in* 
terest. It is a sentiment fit for any crisis, and especially suited 
to the present It is a sentiment becoming republicans. It is a 
sentiment fundamental to all free governments. I cherish it, not 
only as it is expressed in the words of a valued friend not now 
among the living, but for its plain truth and its mighty impor* 
tance. I beseech all who value the blessings of free govern*' 
ment, and of civil liberty, to embrace it, and act upon it I pray 
them to give it scope and energy, such as the present exigency 
of the country requires. Let it have power to overcome miniNr 
differences ; let its conciliating influence unite the heart of man 
to man ; let it melt all smaller objects into one great purpose of 
honest and resolute patriotism ; and let all who mean to die as 
they Uve, citizens of a free country, stand together for the si^* 



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Oh Ttteeday, April 25thf Bir. Webster presented a memorial from 
ihie% diousand citizens of Ontario County, New York, against the re- 
mo?al of the deposits, with the following remarks : — 

These memorialists are farmers, mechanics, merchants, and 
otiier citizens. They represent that they inhabit a portion of 
Western New York essentially agricoltoral, and second to none 
in fertility of soil and other natural advantages. This will be 
readily admitted by all acquainted with the county. It is in the 
beautifdl Lake country, is large, constituting a Congressional 
district by itself, and is doubtless in the very first class of agri- 
cultural counties. Its great products are wheat and cattle, and 
its principal manufacture that of flour, although there are in 
tite county manufactories both of wocd and cotton. Ontario, in 
its leading character, is a county of intelligent fanners. It be- 
longs to that interest which is at once the most general in the 
United States, and is also the basis of other pursuits. Its rich 
lands, and other local advantages, have invited into it, as the 
memorialists state, considerable capital, and stimulated strongly 
the industry of the people. The growth of the county is good 
proof of this. This growth resembles the vigor with which pop- 
ulation has spread forth, and penetrated the wildernesses, in re- 
gions beyond the Alleghany. I am old enough to remember 
^en he who had seen the Seneca Lake had performed a jour- 
ney from the Atlantic coast fit to be spoken of; and I see it 
stated, indeed, in some interesting recent account of the settle- 
ment of this part of New York, that, when the county of Onta- 
rio was established, it contained only a thousand inhabitants, 
though it extended from the Seneca Lake to Lake Erie, carrying 
the whole breadth of the State between Canada and Pennsyl- 
vania, an extent of country now embmcing thurteen or fourteen 
counties, with a population of nearly four hundred thousand. A 
country so rapidly growing, with so much necessity of sale, pur- 
chase, and exchange, of course requires credit, and confidence, 
and a stable currency, to conduct its business beneficially. The 
memcmalists declare that the effect of recent measures of gov- 
ernment has been most disastrous on all their great interests. 
The fiemxier, ihe merchant, the mechanic, all feel alike the pres- 
sure of the times. Produce has fallen from twenty-five to thirty- 
three per cent, in price, since the interference of the executive 
with llie public revenue ; and land, land itself, the great capital 


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of the county, the form in which the vast proportion of its 
property consists, has fallen, within the same time, to the ssune 
extent I receive this information from sources to which I give 
entire credit 

Here, then, is a reduction of twenty-five or thirty-three per 
cent in the whole property of the people, a striking off, at a 
blow, one quarter or one third of the whole value of what they 
possess ! Sir, is this tolerable ? All this, too, done under pre- 
tence of an eocperimentj but really and truly out of hostility to a 
banking corporation; out of hostility to an institution which 
has existed with great usefulness to the country, which is now 
approaching a time when it might be modified, altered, and 
accommodated to any new state of things, or so as to accord 
with the lights of past experience, and be continued, with every 
prospect of advantage to the country. How can conscientious 
men feel themselves justified in pushing, with such ruinous 
efiects on the people, a quarrel of this kind to this extent? 
How do they find within their own bosoms a monitor to tell 
them that all this is right ? If the bank was not to be renewed, 
why not let it quietly expire? and why not leave the public 
moneys in it till it should expire ? A measure so causeless, so 
uncalled for, so destitute of all reasonable object and all just 
purpose, and so disastrous in its effects on the whole body of 
the people, is, so far as I know, nowhere else to be heard of. 
This changing the custody of the public money, without au- 
thority of Congress, is, as a measure of policy, wholly without 
justification, and, as a blow on the prosperity of the country, 
wholly without example. The people ought not to submit to it 
Their respect, their attachment for any individual, however 
strong that respect and attachment may be, ought not to make 
them willing to submit to such an extension of executive power, 
and to the consequences which flow from it And I am sure 
they will not submit. The country is effectually roused. The 
people feel a spirit stirring within them, which they know is the 
spirit that has come down to them with the blood which fills 
their veins. It is the spirit of their fathers, who did not wait 
till unjust power had crushed them, but who saw its approach 
in the lowering storm, snufied it in the tainted gale, and met it, 
and resisted it, and repelled it It is the most alarming circum- 
stance in our whole condition, that, in order to justify the re- 


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moval of tiie deposits, principles are advanced by the executive 
which threaten a change in the substantial character of o.ur gov- 
ernment The argoment which is to justify the executive in 
this instance seems to me to leave little or no control to Con- 
gress over the public treasure. We thus see a constant advance 
in the claims of power. Those who defended the paper read 
to the Cabinet probably never expected to be called on to sup- 
port such reasons as were afterwards given by the Secretary • 
and those who made up their minds to stand by the Secretary's 
report could not have foreseen, that, ere long, they must prepare 
themselves for the docirine of the Protest And what is next to 
be put forth, time only can show. 

Sir, a month or two ago an honorable member of New York 
spoke with pleasure of the unanimity of feeling which prevailed 
in New York, and of the quieting, in some measure, of what he 
thought an unhappy controversy, which had existed heretofore 
in the western parts of that State particularly. I think, too, Sir, 
there are signs of union, and much stronger signs than there 
were when the gentleman alluded to the subject Sir, the letter 
addressed to the honorable member from Kentucky and myself, 
committing ibis memorial to our care, is signed by names many 
of them not unknown here. They are Nathaniel W. HowelL 
John C. Spencer, Mark H. Sibley, James D. Bemis, Z. Barton 
Stout, John Dixson, Phindres Prouty, H. R. Schermerhom, Rob- 
ert Carey Nicholas, Abraham C. Post, Samuel Rawson, Stephen 
Bates, and Moses Fairohild. 

Those who know these gentlemen will recognize among them 
persons whose political opinions have not been the same on aU 
subjects, nor their political objects always identical Yet they 
are united. They are united, as in a common cause, and seek- 
ing to remove a common eviL They come with one voice to 
Congress ; they speak with one voice to the people ; and I trust 
they will act with one heart and one mind in the present exi- 
gency of public affairs. It is to this union, to these united 
counsels and united efforts, to this sense of common danger 
and this common sacrifice of minor differences to high patriotic 
duties, that I look, and look confidently, for the salvation of the 
eoaatry. Every day accumulates new proofs of this growing 
harmoiiy of pubUc sentiment Far and near, there is a rallying 
for the Constitution and the laws. Three days ago, we heard 


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of the clamorous and factious shouts of the citizens of Balti- 
more. .Another peal now reaches us from the multitudes assem- 
bled in those same streets ; and in this peal mingle many new 
voices of powerful tone. Sir, the American people are so well 
schooled in the great doctrines of free government, that they are 
competent to teach first principles, even to their rulers, if unhap- 
pily such teaching should become necessary. They will teach 
them that public complaint for maladministration of govern- 
ment is not clamor ; that indignation for unnecessary and severe 
national suffering is not treason, either legal or moral ; that to 
resist the encroachments of power is not to cabal against gov- 
ernment ; and that the people themselves are not a faction. 

On Tuesday, May 20th, Mr. Webster presented to the Senate a me- 
morial from citizens of Columbia, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, re- 
monstrating against the measures of the executive, in relation to the 
Bank of the United States, and the executive Protest against the pro- 
ceedings of the Senate. 

Mr. President, I am more fortunate than the gentieman 
near me, the member from Pennsylvania, as I am about to 
present to the Senate a paper, in the sentiments of which I 
heartily concur. It is a paper which records the proceedings 
of a Whig meeting in the town of Columbia, Lancaster Coun- 
ty, Pennsylvania. Columbia is a respectable town, as most 
of the Senate know, on the Susquehannah, containing two 
or three thousand inhabitants, and by its position much con- 
nected with the inland trade in lumber and articles of agricultu- 
ral product, as in the great line of communication between Pitts- 
burg and Philadelphia by those noble canals and railroads by 
which the enterprise of Pennsylvania has connected those two 
important points. The memorialists partake in the evil of the 
times. They have not escaped that impartial and undistin- 
guishing scourge, " the experiment" They feel its heavy hand 
upon them, in the stagnation of trade, the want of employment, 
the disappearance of credit, and the flight of commercial confi- 
dence. Sentiments like theirs, strongly and ably expressed, 
have just been heard, in the memorial of the Antimasons of 
Alleghany County. Like the Antimasons of Alleghany County, 


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these Lancaster Whigs are satisfied with their experience of the 
experiment ; and, like them, they protest against the Protest 

The Alleghany memorialists declare their opinion that the 
removal of the deposits was made without just cause, and that 
therefore it violates the word of honor of this government And 
among the resolutions adopted by the Whig meeting at Colum- 
bia I find the following : — 

^^ Resolved^ That the Bank of the United States has acted the part of 
a useful and faithful public servant; that the war now being waged 
against it is foolish, wicked, unjust, and calculated to injure the best in- 
terests of the country ; and that the charter of that institution ought to be 
renewed, with such restrictions and modifications as the public good 
may require and the judgment of Ck>ngress ordain.'' 

I believe this resolution is entirely true. The present state of 
tilings, in my judgment, exhibits the laws transgressed, the char- 
tered rights of a corporate institution violated, the word of honor 
of the government broken. I think the withholding the deposits 
from the bank is a daily wrong, a confirmed infringement of its 
legal rights, inasmuch as it stipulated for the custody of these 
deposits, paid its money under that stipulation, and had done 
no act whatever contrary to its contract I believe the suffering 
of the community is brought upon it by an act, not only unwise, 
but unjust ; not only an act of folly, as it afiects ourselves, but 
an act of positive wrong- to others. 

Mr. President, this is perhaps as fit an occasion as may occur 
to say something upon the motion which I made to the Senate, 
in the latter part of March, for leave to bring in a bill to continue 
for six years the charter of the Bank of the United States, with 
certain modifications. At that time. Sir, the country had been 
trying this notable experiment, or rather its own patience and 
forbearance had been on trial under its operation, almost six 
months. All men of the least pretension to sense and candor 
had become satisfied that very great distress existed in the coun- 
try. The time for doubt and denial had gone by. The sneers 
which had previously been manifested in the Senate, whenever 
the pressure on the country was alluded to, had ceased. How- 
ever men might dispute about the cause of the distress, the fact 
of its existence was too plain to be gainscdd. The merchants^ 
the farmers, the manufacturers, and the mechanics had loaded 


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our tables with their remonstrances and memorials, and filled our 
halls with their committees. No measure of relief, meantime, 
was suggested by gentlemen oonneoted with the administration. 
The only remedy was, as it now is, endurance. If we spoke of 
distress, they bade us hold our tongues and bear it The sum 
and substance of their political philosophy was, "We must 
stand by the President ; we must hold on upon the experiment" 

In this state of things. Sir, I felt it my duty to prepare, for the 
consideration of Congress and the country, some measure of 
immediate and efficient relief. It might be rejected ; but then 
an offer would have been made. The devotees to the experi- 
ment might cling to it, extol its wisdom, and predict its success; 
but the country would have an option. The condition of the 
country was such as was not to be trifled with ; and therefore I 
sought for a measure that, if adopted, could not fail to be eflect- 
ual. Against rash experiment, I prepared well-tried experience ; 
in opposition to daring and specidative theory, I offered what 
forty years had proved to be safe, practioal, and beneficial. Al- 
low me to advert to the main provisions of the bill which I rec- 
ommended, as I desire its character should be kept, to the eye 
of the public, in a clear and distinct light 

What the bill proposed was, — 

A short continuance of the present charter, wM an addition 
of its exclusive right; so that, while this bank still continued, 
Congress, at its leisure, might provide another, if it chose, and 
bring it into existence, to take the plaoe of this, at the end of 
six years; 

A restoration of the deposits ; 

And a provision for enlarging the speeie circulation, so as to 
increase, in fact, to a great extent, the hard money of the coun- 
try, and to discountenance the circulation of small notes. 

This is the substance of the measure, and if it shall be adopt- 
ed the country will be relieved, and the bank will have time 
to collect its debts, and wind up its concerns, Congress will be 
at liberty, also, to a^opt any system for the future which its 
wisdom shall approve; it may recharter this bank; it may create 
a new bank ; it may decide it will have no bank. Meantime, 
and until its final decision shaU be made, business will resume 
its wonted course, employment wiU revive, labor will be agaia 
in demand, commerce will spread its sails, and revenue begw 


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again to flow into the treasury. If there be one intelligent indi- 
vidoal who denies that all these consequences would immedi- 
ately follow the passage of this bill, that individual I have not 
met with. What is said is, not that this measure would not 
produce these beneficial effects, but that we can get along with- 
out it ; that the experiment will yet succeed ; and that, at any 
rate, the President and the party will put down the bank. If, 
Sir, this bill had passed within a fortnight from the time of its 
introduction, the country at this hour would have begun to rc- 
aume its accustomed prosperity, activity, and cheerfulness ; we 
should have despatched the public business, and been ready to 
go home, by the first day of June, to receive the cordial welcome 
of our constituents. 

If we could pass it now, although the case has been grow- 
ing constantly worse, yet even now it would in ten days give 
an entire change to the face of things. It would in a month 
put the cotton-mills again in motion, bring up the prices of 
lumber, wheat, and other products of the farm, reanimate inter- 
nal trade, put life into the factories, and the mechanic pursuits, 
in which life is now suspended, gladden labor with the certainty 
of fair wages, restore confidence, bring back credit, and make 
tiie country once more what it was twelve months ago. AU this 
good is within our reach, if we will abandon theories, when 
they are proved and demonstrated to be fallacious ; give up fol- 
lies, now that they stand as exposed and acknowledged follies ; 
and restore the reign of the law, of justice, of good sense, and 
of experience. 

When I last addressed the Senate on this subject, in the lat- 
ter part of March, I manifested my intention to call it up again 
on the 21st of April. The opinion of the Senate, both on the 
causes of the public distress, and on the proper remedy, were 
very well known. A majority, it was not doubted, disapproved 
the whole executive proceeding in removing the public moneys 
from the bank, and would regard their return as the first step in 
reestablishing a proper state of things. And a continuance of 
the present bank, with modifications, was supposed, also, to be 
the measure which a majority was most likely to concur in, as 
the remedy best suited to the occasion. The House of Rep- 
resentatives had done nothing to commit itself, one way or the 
other. Whatever might be conjectured of its course, it had 
come to no decision. 


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But before the 2l8t of April camei that honorable body ba4 
expressed its opinion. It had decided, by a very large majorityi 
and in the most general terms, that the bank should not be re^ 
(diartered. While this purpose remains, it is obvious that any 
proceeding of the Senate on the subject must be nugatory. 
The Senate cannot rechartar the bank. The Senate, of itself^ 
has no power to pass measures for the public reliefl It can^ 
indeed, check the measures of other branches; it can resist 
what it deems to be wrong, and it may show itself ready to 
concur in wise and proper measures of reUef ; but it can do no 
more. It would seem, therefore, to be hardly worth while to 
occupy the attention of the Senate with {propositions for relief, to 
which the other house has, beforehand, manifested its determined 
opposition. Until there is some intimation of a change of 
opinion in that house, it is useless to press the ipeasure whicb 
I proposed. For the present, therefore, I shall suffer the sul>» 
ject to remain where it is. When I shall next call it up will, of 
course, depend on circumstances. Of the measure itself, I retain 
the same opinion as I expressed on its introduction. It is a 
prompt measure; it is an efficient measure; it is a concilia:' 
tory measure ; and it is the only measure which promises relief 
to the country. These are my opinions ; and those who oppose 
this measure, and have nothing to propose but a confirmatioa 
of the present state of things, act on thdr own responsibility. 

Sir, the question is before the country. Shall the bank be re- 
chartered for a short period, until it can collect its debts, and 
wind up its concerns, without distressing the people ? or shall 
it be left to collect its debts in the short period of its charter 
which yet remains, whatever may be the consequences to the 

Mr. President, if Congress see fit to embrace the latter branch 
of the alternative ; if it will not recharter the bank, even for a 
day, or under any modification ; if it will make no new bank ; 
if it wiQ leave the country, in its present condition, to struggle 
with its difficulties and its distresses as it can ; -^ it will be 
recollected, at least, that aU this is not the result of necessity. It 
will be recoUected that a different policy was proposed ; that a 
fair and conciliatory measure was offered, was eamestiy pressed 
on the attention of Congress, and was rejected. 

Let gentiemen, then, Sir, take the consequences upon them* 


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seiyes. If the sommer shall prove to be one of great embarrass* 
ment; if business shall be suspended; if trade shall stagnate; 
if employment for laboT shall not be fomid ; if the revenue shall 
fidl off one half, — let it be remembered, that these consequen- 
ces, one and all, might have been this day easily prevented; 
that plain, easy, and adequate means of prevention were pro* 
posed, but that gentlemen chose to adhere to their theories, their 
experiments, and their predetermined course of policy, against 
all remonstrances, as well within the walls of Congress as 

Mr. President, while, like others, I am engaged h^e every 
morning in presenting to the Senate the proceedings of public 
meetings and the memorials of individuab, supjdicating Con- 
gress to restore the public prosperity and to reestablish the au» 
-ttiority of the laws, I think it due to those who thus do me the 
honor to make me the oi^n of their sentiments and their wish- 
es, and indeed to the whole country, that I should express my 
own opinions upon the present state of things, and upon the 
prospects before us* 

In the first place, then. Sir, I wish to ex]:Nress my belief, that 
nearly all practical men and men of business in the country, 
fiiends or foes of the administration, have become satisfied that 
ttie "experiment" is a complete failure* Whatever some may, 
at one time, have believed, and whatever others have hoped, 
eight months' experience has settied the question. Yes, Sir, I 
believe that firiends as well as foes now see that the attempt to 
sustain the curreiiby and maintain commercial credit by the aid 
of State banks has hopelessly failed. With all the aid of gov- 
ernment, with all that party zeal could do for them, these banks 
have not been able to relieve the community; they have not 
been able to restore confidence. Confidence is a thing not to 
be produced by compulsion. Men cannot be forced into trust 
Good credit, within local limits, these bemks, or some of thern^ 
possessed; but there it naturally stopped, and cannot be forced 

As far as I understand, at least in this part of the country, the 
Usual occurrences are these. If a man has the notes of State 
banks to any amount, he go^ to the banks, and gets specie for 
them. Having obtained his specie, he very often goes to the 
Btxk of the United States, and exchanges it for bills. The xe^ 


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turns made to Congress from the deposit banks, and all our 
information, official and unofficial, clearly show that they are 
not competent to relieve the country. The experiment, I repeat, 
Sir, has already failed. Men feel that it has failed. The friends 
of the administration feel that it has failed. I speak confident- 
ly, and am willing it should be remembered that I have so 
spoken ; and I say that at this very hour, in my opinion, the 
conviction is general that the measures adopted by government 
have not produced, and cannot produce, the expected beneficial 

As to what is before us. Sir, my opinion is, we are to look 
forward to a summer and autumn of very great difficulty. 
There may be occasional and temporary relaxations of suffer- 
ing, but there can be no permanent relief. Men of capital will 
be alarmed ; active men of business will be timid ; those who 
have any thing will rather seek to secure it, than to hazard it in 
the attempt to make more. Employment will be scarce, wages 
low, and above all, or rather, perhaps, as the cause of all, a 
want of confidence, an uncertainty about the future, a distrust 
in the currency, and a distrust in government, will continue to 
paralyze the whole community. 

If we break up here, having done nothing, we shaU go home 
to meet nothing but complaints and trouble. Can any of these 
advocates of " experiments " tell me how the condition of the 
country is to be changed for the better before the next meeting 
of Congress ? How is business to revive ? How is occupation 
for the laboring classes to be obtained ? How is commerce to 
be extended? How is internal trade, especially, to regain its 
facilities and advantages ? How are exchanges to be reestab- 
lished ? And what is to become of the revenue ? Will gentle- 
men longer sleep over this last subject ? Do they not now see, 
that the Secretary's estimates cannot be realized ? Sir, the hon- 
orable member from Kentucky has called for an account of the 
receipts at the treasury for the year, thus far. When those 
accounts come, they will open gentlemen's eyes; they will show 
sad disappointment I cannot speak with precision as to the 
extent of defalcation, but I do not speak altogether at random 
when I give my opinion on this subject From the best lights 
I can obtain, there will be a deficiency in the receipts of the 
customs of at least one third of the expected amount ; perhaps 


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nearer to a moiety than to a third. Such is the direct effect of 
ihe experiment upon the finances of the country. Having, Sir, 
expressed these opinions, there are others, also, which I think it 
light to state. 

With all respect. Sir, to both houses of Congress, and not- 
withstanding all that we hear, in one or the other, against the 
power to create a bank, 1 am fully of opinion, nevertheless, that 
two thirds of each house are convinced of these two proposi- 
tions : First, that a national bank is constitutional ; second, tliat 
a national bank, in the present state of things, is indispensable. 
This may appear inconsistent with what has taken place, but I 
fully believe it is all true. This paradox, if it appear to be one, 
is easily explained by considering the circumstances which may, 
and which do, control the actions of public men. One question 
gets mixed with another ; opinions give way to notions of pres- 
ent expediency ; and the consequences of appearing to give way 
and abandon a favorite course of policy are more feared than 
all other consequences. Sir, if the executive would but signify 
his assent to such a proceeding, we should recharter the Bank 
of the United States, at least for a short time, restore the de- 
posits, and go home to the people in three weeks. 

We sometimes hear intimations thrown out, that the admin- 
istration may itself yet propose a bank ; some sort of a bank ; a 
bank not on the usual principles, but on some new principles* 
" New principles," it is-frequently said, are to be applied to the 
case. I am not aware. Sir, from my own reading or observa^ 
tion, that any new principles in banking have been discovered, 
at home or abroad, for the last quarter or half a century, unless 
it be that certain notions which have been suggested among us, 
some time since, and recently, but never adopted, may be called 
new principles. I will advert to some of them. 

One is, that we may create a bank, with a large capital, and 
establish it in this District ; not for the convenience of the peo- 
ple here, but for the benefit of the whole United States. Now, 
Sir, he must have singular ideas of constitutional law, who 
denies that Congress can make a bank at Philadelphia, with 
branches in other States, and yet contends that it may establish 
a bank here, which may send its branches into all tiie States. 
And as to a bank with a large capital here, where there is so 
Btde commerce, with no branches in the large cities, where com- 

VOL. IV. 4 


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meroe does exist, the notion is too preposterous to need refatar 
tion. This " new principle,'' then, Sir, be assured, will not be 
carried into operation. 

There b another " new principle " ; and that is, to establish a 
bank on the funds in the treasury. It is hardly necessary to say 
that the time for this, if there ever was a time favorable to so 
crude and so dangerous a project, has quite gone by. 

We ha^e had, too, Sir, at different periods in our history, sug- 
gestions favorable to the exemption of banks from liability to 
pay their notes in specie ; in other words, favorable to a sheer^ 
confessed , paper-money system. These suggestions, it may be, 
have become part of the " new principles," which it is intended 
shortly to exemplify. The country, I trust, will not run into any 
such foUy. 

Again, I have heard it said, that, although there may be a 
bank hereafter, yet it must be a bank in which the government, 
that is, the executive, shall have direct participation and control 
I need heurdly say, that, for one, I shall not consent to any such 
project for extending executive influence. I shall not agree to 
make a very bad bank, for the sake of making a very dangerous 
government In short. Sir, I reject and repudiate all these new 
principles. I shall set my face against all banks but a specie- 
paying bank, a hard-money bank, a well regulated and well 
constituted bank, established on principles safe to the govern- 
ment and safe to the people. If we cannot have such a bank, 
the next best thing will be to have none. Gentlemen may set 
their hearts at rest. Sir, about all these new projects. The coun- 
try is too wise, it has already had too much taste of experiments^ 
to countenance any one of them. If there be not a sound 
bank, a safe bank, a bank independent of executive control, there 
will, for the present at least, be no bank at all. 

I have only a few words more to say. Sir. We are already 
far advanced in the session. The heats of summer are ap- 
proaching; and what is to be done? Is the administration pre- 
pared to see the session break up, and members go home, leaving 
these things as they are ? Is such the intention of the execu- 
tive ? Is such the intention of members who support the exeo- 
utive ? I still remain of the opinion formerly expressed, that it 
is our absolute duty to adopt some measure of relief, before we 
leave our seats. But the responsibility is not on us. The Seo- 


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ate can do nothing. We are not responsible either for the 
present or for future difficulties. 

We have not brought about this state of things ; we have not 
removed the deposits ; we have not broken the plighted faith of 
government; we have not deranged the currency; we have not 
shaken credit and confidence ; we have not brought on failures, 
bankruptcies, and ruin ; we have not obstructed trade ; we have 
not checked manufactures ; we have not starved labor ; we have 
not impoverished the treasury. It is for those who have changed 
the state of things^ it is for those whose political acts have placed 
the country in the condition it now is in, to take and to bear the 
responsibility. When we foretold this, we were derided as pro- 
phets false or .prophets ignorant; complaints of distress have 
heretofore only produced sneers, sarcasms, and attempts, poor 
attempts indeed, at ridicule. But the evil has come in a shape 
too formidable to be disregarded. Here it is ; and how do its 
authors intend to deal with it? Sir, I am as anxious as any 
member can be to go home. I stay here at great inconvenience 
and sacrifice ; but I am willing to stay till the last hope of doing 
any thing useful has faded away. I will stay till the dog- 
days come, if it promise benefit If the administration has any 
thing to propose, I will stay and hear it If it meditates any 
measure of relief, I am willing to wait the result of its medita- 
tion. I hope, therefore, gentlemen will tell us, I call on them to 
tell us, whether the executive has any thing further to propose. 
Does it desire the prolongation of the session ? Has it any 
tiling, or does it expect to have any thing, to submit to us ? The 
friends of the executive have the power. They have, too, the 
responsibility. They reject every thing which we think useful ; 
and they propose no change from our present condition. They 
can relieve the country at once, if they choose. If they will but 
sacrifice their own prejudices, their stiff adherence to their own 
opinions and purposes, on the altar of the public good, they 
could relieve the country in three weeks. It is for them to decide 
whether this sacrifice shall be made. And I now repeat, Sir, 
and it is the last remark wiUi which I shall trouble you, that, 
unless some eflicient measure be adopted before we separate, 
we have a summer and fall before us such as this country has 
not experienced. 


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In the Senate, on Tuesday, June 3d, Mr. McKean presented the me- 
morial of the Pennsylvania State Convention, assembled at Harrisburg, 
May 27th, 1834, introducing it with appropriate remarks. The memo- 
rial having been read, Mr. Webster rose and addressed the Senate. 

Mr. President, — Is this the voice of Pennsylvania ? That 
is a question of very great interest at the present moment. 
The whole comitry has a concern in it. Is this the voice of 
Pennsylvania ? If this be her voice, then we may hope that the 
day of relief and of safety is approaching. If this be her voice, it 
is a voice of help and of rescue. The work of relief will pros- 
per, it will proceed, if her heart be in it, and her strong hand be 
put to it. Pennsylvania is one of those great central States, on 
whose determination and on whose conduct every thing in re- 
gard to the future condition of the country seems to hang. If 
this centre moves with intelligence, union, and patriotism, noth- 
ing can resist its force. For one, I believe that the sentiments 
expressed in this memorial are, to a very great extent, the sen- 
timents of Pennsylvania. I believe this is her voice. The 
proofs, I think, are satisfactory. They come in numerous ex- 
pressions of opinion, in a thousand forms, from all parts of 
the State itself; and they may be gathered from the workings 
of public opinion in other portions of the country. In. this hall 
and the other, I see evidence, if I mistake not, that those who 
know Pennsylvania best believe her to entertain the opinions 
expressed in the paper which has now been read, and believe, 
also, that she will soon show herself in earnest in maintaining 
them. She has been an ardent friend and a steady supporter 
of the present chief magistrate. Among the very first to espouse 
his cause, from warm gratitude for his great services, a strong 
conviction of his honesty and patriotism, and a confiding trust 
in his ability to administer the government, she has adhered 
faithfully to her attachment. Three times she has given him 
her vote for the Presidency, and she has not faltered in her sup- 
port heretofore, although there have been measures, touching her 
vital interests, in which nearly every one of her delegation here, 
and a vast majority of her own legislature, have been con- 
strained to differ from the President. She has seen and regret- 
ted what she thought errors ; but she has remembered great ser- 
vices and great exploits, and has gone on with her characteris- 
tic steadiness. It is not wonderful that she should be slow and 


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rductant in withdrawing confidence where she had bestowed it 
in soch bountiful measure. I would not suggest, that, even now, 
Pennsylvania abates her personal kindness and regard for the 
chief magistrate who has been so often the man of her choice. 
No doubt she would desire to see him go through his career 
with success and honor ; but I believe, Sir, that her citizens per- 
ceive the true character and feel the disastrous effects of those 
measures which the administration has been recently led to 
adapt, and that they are convinced that it is their duty to oppose 
those measures by every thing which belongs to their interest 
and to their character as Pennsylvanians. In all this it is pos- 
sible I may be deceived. The sentiment of Pennsylvania may 
be fixed tiie other way. My hopes, my earnest wishes, may 
mislead me ; but I shall not give up those hopes while it is pos- 
sible to retain them, because they are intimately connected with 
an the expectations which I cherish for a return of the prosperity 
of the country. 

Mr. President, the immediate difficulty in our condition is to 
convince the friends of the administration here, and the Presi- 
dent himself, that the country is either dissatisfied or distressed. 
The pertinacity with which men here ding to this " experiment" 
excels all former experience. They can see no proof of dis- 
tress, they can hear no sounds of just complaint. They insist 
that all the excitement which exists in the country is produced 
by the bank, by panic-makers^ by party politicians. All the 
memorials come, they say, from the President's enemies. If we 
stand up here to present the petitions of the people, and to press 
them on the attention of the Senate, we are called panic-makers! 
K we speak of the multitudes who flock together, at public 
meetings, to memorialize Congress, we are told they are all 
bank agents. Farmers, mechanics, laborers, traders, manufac- 
turers, and merchants come here by hundreds of thousands ; but 
we are told they are but a few noisy political partisans. Sir, 
an end to this delusion must some time come. It cannot last 
for ever ; and if any thing short of an overwhelming defeat at 
the ballot-boxes will ever convince the supporters of the present 
measures that the people are against them, they might be, in 
some degree, satisfied by the character of this convention at 
Harrisbuig, the circumstances attending it, and the result of its 
proceedings. It was a convention consisting of two hundred 


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and fifty delegates, coming from forty-four counties out of fifty- 
two which' the State contains. These delegates assembled, Sir, 
from places some of them three hundred miles apart^ at a very 
busy season of the year, in obedience to the will of their con- 
stituents, for the purpose of consulting on the present state of 
things, and uniting to pray relief from Congress. I have the 
honor of knowing several of these gentlemen personally, and 
many others by reputation. The convention was not com- 
posed altogether of delegates from any one political party. Va- 
rious parties, various descriptions of political men, united in its 

It is known that there exists in Pennsylvania a large, active, 
and zealous Antimasonic party ; and I see, among the members 
of the meeting, many distinguished names belonging to that 
party. These gentlemen came to the convention, not to lose 
their own distinct character, not to give up their own principles 
of association, but to signify that, in this crisis, and on the 
great questions which now agitate the whole country, they think 
as others think, and as Americans ought to think, and that they 
hold fast to the Constitution and laws. 

Sir, I am happy to say, that I know no party or body of citi- 
zens in the country, whose principles and opinions, on all its 
leading interests, are more thoroughly sound and patriotic than 
those of the Antimasons of Pennsylvania. I know no gentle- 
men more worthy of trust, in every respect, than those who are 
placed in the public councils here by their influence and their 
votes. It is true, that the party has a distinct object of its own, 
which it keeps constantly in sight, and which it pursues with 
steadiness and zeal ; but it is equally true, that it shows itself 
always unwavering and steaUfast in its attachment to the Con- 
stitution, in its maintenance of the authority of law, in its love 
of liberty, and in its support of the great interests and true pol- 
icy of the country. 

The Whigs, Sir, were also represented in this convention, 
and it will be seen by its proceedings that they have avowed 
sentiments and principles worthy of their name. Nor are these 
alL It appears, also, from the memorial itself, that nearly one 
third of the whole convention was composed of friends and 
supporters of the present executive. Seventy-five Jackson men, 
as they have been called, are on the roll of members. Will not 


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this striking fact produce its effect on gentlemen here ? Will it 
not cause them to open their eyes to the progress of opinion, and 
their minds to the force of truth ? You will observe, Sir, that 
this convention did not call itself a Whig convention, a Na^ 
tional Republican convention, nor an Antimasonic convention; 
but it called itself a " convention of delegates from the citizens 
of Pennsylvania opposed to executive usurpation and abuse." 
It adopted a name, or used a description, broad enough to com- 
prehend all those who, however they might differ in other things, 
united in the objects of this meeting. Now, Sir, how is it pos- 
sible that so numerous and respectable a convention, thus com- 
posed of gentlemen belonging to distinct parties and to different 
political associations, could be brought together, and be found 
adopting this memorial, with entire unanimity, if there were not 
some strong conviction common to all, some general and con- 
curring sense of public distress and public danger ? 

Sir, they have acted wisely and patriotically ; they have re- 
membered that they have a common country, a common liberty, 
and, in times of danger, a common duty. They have felt, that, 
whatever else they may be, they are yet all Americans, all Penn- 
sylvanians, all lovers of liberty and the Constitution. The ad- 
ministration is deceived, therefore. Sir, the President himself is 
deceived, greatly, if he supposes this convention to have been 
assembled by the agency of the bank, by any mere party op- 
eration, or by any desire to create pania Let us look to indi- 
viduals, let us see who composed the convention, that we may 
judge the better of the weight due both to its declarations and 
its opinions. 

I perceive. Sir, that there was placed in its chair a Washing- 
ton CJoiTNTY FARMER, Joscph Lawrcucc, a man well known in 
tills Capitol ; a man of the simplest republican habits, and the 
sternest republican virtues ; a man who has served his fellow- 
citizens in distinguished public stations with much credit, and 
has gone back to the cultivation of his own farm with real Ro- 
man simplicity. Sir, all the banks in the world, and ail the 
panic-makers and political partisans in the world, could not 
bring him over the Alleghanies to Harrisburg, there to put his 
name to a paper containing these sentiments and these state- 
ments, unless he fully believed them all to be true. 

In the preliminary arrangements of the meeting, and also in 


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its subsequent proceedings, I observe that Greneral Frick, of Nor- 
thumberland, acted a conspicuous part. If I have been rightly 
informed, this gentleman has been a distinguished friend of the 
present chief magistrate, and has supported him and his meas- 
ures with ability, both in and out of the legislature of Penn- 
sylvania. Is it panic, is it party spleen, is it iU-will to the Pres- 
ident, which Inrought this highly respectable gentleman, and 
others like him, to the convention ? Certainly it is not No- 
body can believe it is. They were brought thither, and could 
only be brought thither, by that sense of duty which is stronger 
than personal preference; by that true love of country which 
places principles above men. Would they not stand by the 
President if they could ? Popular as he still is, powerful as he 
is, would they not go on in their support of his measures if in- 
surmountable obstacles were not in the way ? 

There is another circumstance. Sir, in the character of this 
convention, worthy of especial notice. Among its members 
were several who belong to that highly respectable portion of 
our fellow-citizens, the Society of Friends. With one of them, 
a member of the committee who brings this memorial to Con- 
gress, a most worthy and respectable gentleman, I have the 
pleasure of some personal acquaintance. He is advancing far 
into age; and yet he never attended a political meeting in 
his whole life, until he went, with others of his Society, last 
week, to Harrisburg. When, Sir, were the Society of Friends 
found to be political agitators, ambitious partisans, or panic- 
makers ? When have they disturbed the community with false 
cries of public danger, or joined in any clamor against just, and 
wise, and constitutional government ? Sir, if there be any polit- 
ical fault fairly imputable to the Friends, I think it is rather, if 
they will allow me to say so, that they are sometimes a little too 
indifferent about the exercise of their political rights ; a little too 
ready to leave all matters respecting government in the hands 
of others. Not ambitious, usually, of honor or office, but peace- 
able and industrious, they desire only the safety of liberty, civil 
and religious, the security of property, and the protection of 
honest labor. All they ask of government is, that it be wisely 
and safely administered. They are not desirous to interfere in 
its administration. Yet, Sir, a crisis can move them ; and they 
think a crisis now exists. They bow down to nothing huroan 


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"which raises its head higher than the Constitutioii, or above the 

Snch, Sir, is the character, the composition, of this conven- 
tion, I beseech gentlemen not to deceive either themselves or 
others, by referring all its proceedings to party influence and 
bank influence. Depend on it. Sir, it had its origin, and owes 
its character, to a deep feeling of dissatisfaction with measures 
of government, a conviction of much public distress, and an 
honest alarm at executive claims of power. And depend on it, 
Sir, if these and other admonitions are not taken in time, if noth- 
* ing be done to quiet apprehension and to relieve the country, 
the sentiments of this convention will become, and must become, 
more and more general among the people. 

This memorial, Mr. President, declares that the cherished 
poUcy of Pennsylvania, consisting of an encouragement of her 
manufactures, has become impracticable and delusive ; that nu- 
merous establishments are closed, and others crippled ; that the 
loss of property has been afflicting ; and that the suspension of 
business deprives labor of wages and of bread. Is this true ? Is 
this representation fact, or fiction ? Have two hundred and fifty 
gentlemen been sent to Harrisburg, by their friends and neigh- 
bors, that they may raise a false cry, put statements upon paper 
which are not true, and send thirty of their own number to 
Washington, to impose on Congress with a pretended but fabe 
story of distress ? 

The memorial speaks of Pittsburg. It is now within a few 
days of twelve months, since, for the first time, I visited that 
city, so interesting by its position, by its rapid growth, by the 
character of its inhabitants, and by the history of early occur- 
rences in its neighborhood. It was then all animation, activity, 
and cheerfulness. If the smoke of numerous factories and 
workshops somewhat darkened the air and obscured the view 
of the charming scenery aroimd, it gave evidence, still, that 
occupations were prosperous, and that labor was well paid, and 
bappy in its daily toiL Of thirty thousand inhabitants, it is 
said two thirds of them owe their means of livelihood to manu- 
factures ; and it may be asked, with emphasis, and with alarm, 
unless activity be restored again to the loom and the forge, what 
is to become of this amount of human strength and industry, thus 
thrown out of employment? The memorial goes on to say, 


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that the great staples of the State are without a market ; thai 
many of its mines are nearly or quite abandoned ; that the man- 
ufactures of iron and cotton have fallen off one third ; and the 
products of the field sell only at reduced pric>es, when they 
sell at all. " Turn where we will,'* it continues, " your memo- 
rialists perceive one universal sense of present or impending 
ruin, depressing the energies and darkening the prospects of the 

Now, Sir, if these statements, put deliberately on paper by 
this convention, and brought hither by its committee, will not 
convince the administration and its firiends of the fact of dissat- 
isfaction and distress among the people, all effort to produce 
conviction must faiL We are indeed, I fear, attempting a hope* 
less task. AU fact and all reasoning seem to fall powerless on 
the unimpressible, impenetrable surface of party opinion. Every 
blow, however often repeated, rebounds from it as from the face 
of an anvil. Men have become so committed, they have so far 
stepped in already, all their hopes are so entirely pledged and 
staked on the success of this grand "experiment," that any 
change of purpose appears to be out of the question. 

I can only repeat, therefore, Sir, what I have so often said, 
that I entertain faint hopes of relief, till public opinion shall pro* 
duce it, by some change of public agents. The authors of this 
experiment have made up their minds to sheure its fate, to float 
with it, if they can keep it above water, and to sink with it, if it 
must go down. They still cry out that all is well, all is safe, all 
is prosperous, all is glorious ; and argument, experience, the im- 
portunity, even the supplications, of the people, have no more 
influence than the idle wind. 

Sir, I am happy to believe, as I do believe, that the citizens 
of the great State of Pennsylvania are awaking to a just sense 
of the condition of the country. Since all our fortunes are 
so much connected with her own ; since all that she does, and 
all that she omits to do, may affect the happiness of every man, 
not only within her own limits, but in all the other States ; it is 
natural that the whole country should regard her with interest, 
I doubt not. Sir, she will examine the conduct of government, 
and take counsel with her own thoughts about the security of 
the Constitution, and the preservation of the authority of the 
laws. I doubt not that she will well consider the present., and 


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look to the future; and if- she finds all well, and all safe, if 
Ahe feels no evil and perceives no danger, she will repose in her 
aoenstomed tranquillity. But if she feels that evil, and great 
evil, does exist, and if she sees that danger is before the coun- 
try, it is not to be doubted that she will bring to the crisis her 
intelligence, her patriotism, and her power. 

In acquiring the liberty which we enjoy, she had her full share 
both of the sacrifice and the glory ; and she knows that that rich 
possession is held only on the condition of watchfulness and 
vigilance. God grants liberty only to those who love it, and 
are always ready to guard and defend it. In establishing oui 
admirable Constitution, she bore a leading part, and contributed 
to the counsels which framed it the wisdom of Franklin, and 
Morris, and Wilson. None can have a deeper stake in the pres* 
ervation of this CJonstitution than the citizens of Pennsylvania ; 
and I verily believe that none are more strongly attached to its 
true principles. It is natural, therefore, that those who think 
tiiat high principles or great interests are in danger should look 
to her for succor. 

If, as this memorial alleges, the manufacturing industry of the 
country is depressed and suffering, if it be discouraged, crippled, 
and threatened with ruin, who shall save it, if Pennsylvania 
shall not aid in its rescue ? Where will it find support, if she 
abandon it? We have followed her lead in fostering manufac- 
tures and sustaining domestic industry, believing this to be a 
part of her settled policy, interwoven with her system, and that 
her purposes in regard to it were fixed and settled. I still think 
so ; and therefore I cannot readily believe that she will approve 
measures which undo all that has been done, or counteract its 
good effect. 

Above aU, Sir, I cannot believe that the political doctrines of 
the times can stand a chance for adoption in Pennsylvania. I 
cannot believe that men who have been educated in that school, 
which has been called emphatically the Democratic school, and 
who hold their political opinions in common with McKean, and 
Snyder, and William Findlay, will have a relish for the senti- 
ments of the Protest.* When they are asked. Who ought to 

* On the 38th of March, 1834, the Senate adopted a resolution declaring that 
** ift the late execative proceedings in relation to the public revenue, the rreai- 
deoi had aasomed a power not conferred by the Constitution and laws, but in den>- 


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hold the pubKc purse? I think they will not agree with the 
Protest in their answer. Nor has it ever been taught for doc- 
trine, in the school of which they are disciples, that the execu- 
tive power is the natural guardian of liberty, and that it is not 
for the representatives of the people, or the representatives of the 
States, to question its acts, or to proclaim its encroachments. 
Sir, Pennsylvania is deeply interested in that in which we are 
all interested, the welfare of the whole ; and if she be true 
to herself, as I trust she will be, she cannot be false to the coun- 

Mr. President, we are approaching to the end of a long ses- 
sion, and we are likely to leave off where we began. We have 
done nothing, and I fear we shall do nothing, for the relief of the 
people. The government has nothing to propose which even 
its own friends will support On what does it rely ? A prop- 
osition is before the other house, which has been represented as 
the only scheme of the administration. It is a law for keeping 
the public treasures in the State banks. It was offered here, 
the other day, as you remember. Sir, by way of amendment 
to a bill, and was rejected by more than two thirds. It is put 
to rest here ; nor is its sleep elsewhere likely to be disturbed. 

The administration will not consent that the deposits be 
restored ; it will not consent to give the present bank time to 
collect its debts and wind up its affairs without distressing the 
people; it will not consent to prolong its existence a single 
day; it will not consent to any new bank; it will not suffer 
the public money to depart, in any way, from executive control. 
It sees employment cut off, but it does nothing to restore it; 
it sees confidence destroyed, but it does nothing to revive it ; it 
sees the revenue diminished, and dwindling, but it does nothing 
to improve it. And yet it would appear, that the administra- 
tion is now desirous that Congress should adjourn and go home. 
For one, I feel that Congress has not done its duty ; it has not 
fulfilled the objects of the session; it has done nothing to relieve 
the country. 

The responsibility. Sir, must rest where it ought to rest ; and 
we must prepare ourselves, as best we may, to account to the 

gation of both." On the 17th of April, a Protest against this resolution was 
sent to the Senate by the President of the United States, with a request that it 
should *' be entered at length on the journals of the Senate." 


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people for the disappointment of their just hopes, and the disas- 
trous consequences of rash, unlawful, ill-advised measures of 

Mr. President, I hardly intended, when I rose, to occupy more 
than a moment of the time of the Senate. 1 know how many 
important subjects are upon the table. But this one subject, 
the general condition of the country, is so superior to all, it is 
of such overwhelming importance, that every thing else necessa- 
rily gives way to it. It has been so through the session; it 
will be so next session ; and it will continue to be so, till the 
Constitution shall be vindicated, the violated law redressed, the 
pnblic treasures restored to their proper custody, and general 
confidence reestablished. How soon this may be done, it re- 
mains with the people themselves to decide ; but until it is done, 
and all done, we shall look in vain, either for an end to distrac- 
tion in the pul:^ councils, or an end to embarrassment and 
mSsnng among the people. 

VOL. nr. 


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In Senate of the United States, February 5, 1834, Mr. Webster, from 
the Committee on Finance, made the following report : — 

The Committee on Finance, to whom has been referred the 
report of the Secretary of the Treasury of the 3d of December, 
1833, on the removal of the public deposits from the Bank of 
the United States, and a resolution, submitted to the Senate 
by an honorable member from Kentucky, declaring that the 
reasons assigned by the Secretary for the removal of the said 
deposits are unsatisfactory and insufficient, have agreed on 
the following report : — 

The act incorporating the Bank of the United States, as is 
justly remarked by the Secretary, is a contract, containing stip- 
ulations on the part of the government, and on the part of the 
corporation, entered into for full and adequate consideration. 

The government became party to this contract by granting 
the charter, and the stockholders by accepting it " In consider- 
ation," says the charter, " of the exclusive privileges and benefits 
conferred by this act on the said bank, the president and direc- 
tors thereof shall pay to the United States, out of the corporate 
funds thereof, one million and five hundred thousand dollars, in 
three equal payments " ; and in another section it declares that, 
" during the continuance of this act, and whenever required by 
the Secretary of the Treasury, the said corporation shall give 
the necessary facilities for transferring the public funds from 
place to place within the United States or the territories thereof, 

• A Report on the Removal of the Deposits, made by Mr. Webster, from the 
Committee on Finance of the Senate of the United States, on the 6th of Februa- 
ry, 1834. 


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and for distributing the same in payment of the public creditors, 
without charging commissions or claiming allowance on account 
of difference of exchange ; and shall do and perform the several 
and respective duties of the commissioners of loans for the sev- 
eral States, or any one or more of them, whenever required by 

The section immediately following this provision is in these 
words : " And be it further enacted^ That the deposits of the 
money of the United States, in places in which the said bank or 
branches thereof may be established, shall be made in said bank 
or branches thereof, unless the Secretary of the Treasury shall at 
any time otherwise order and direct ; in which case the Secre- 
tary of the Treasury shall immediately lay before Congress, if in 
session, and if not, immediately after the commencement of the 
next session, the reasons for such order or direction." 

It is not to be denied or doubted, that this custody of the 
public deposits was one of the " benefits " conferred on the bank 
by the charter, in consideration of the money paid and the ser- 
vices undertaken to be performed by the bank to the govern- 
ment; and to this custody the bank has a just right, unless such 
causes have arisen as may have justified the Secretary in giv- 
ing an order and direction for changing that custody. Any 
order, therefore, issued under the provisions of this law, neces- 
sarily involves a consideration of the just extent of the Secre- 
tary's power and of the rights of the bank. 

But Congress, in making this provision, unquestionably had 
in view the safety of the public funds, and certain important 
financial objects, as well as the making of a just consideration to 
the bank for the sum paid and the services undertaken by it ; 
and with this view, also, it has expressed its will that the depos- 
its shall continue to be made in the bank until good cause shall 
arise for ordering otherwise. Of this good cause, the Secretary 
of the Treasury in the first instance, and Congress ultimately 
and conclusively, are constituted the judges. Every order, there- 
fore, of the Secretary for changing the deposits presents for the 
examination of Congress a question of general political proprie- 
ty and expediency, as well as a question of right and obligation 
to the bank. 

These questions may be considered together. They are inti- 
mately connected ; because the right of the bank to retain the 


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deposits,' and to enjoy the advantages to be derived therefrom^ 
cannot be denied, unless a case is shown to have arisen within 
the just power of removal vested in the Secretary, and which 
made it his duty to exercise that power. The Secretary is only 
to remove the deposits for reasons. Of these reasons he is to 
give an account to Congress. If they be insufficient to justify 
the removal, the bank has a right to a return of the deposits, 
and the country has a right also to expect that, in that case, the 
public treasure will be restored to its former place of safety. 

The Secretary having removed the deposits, and having re- 
ported his reasons to both houses, the whole Subject is now be- 
fore Congress by way of appeal from his decision ; and the ques- 
tion is, whether that decision ought to stand, or ought to be re- 

The power of the Secretary, under the law, is evidently but 
provisional. It is a power which he may exercise in the first 
instance ; but the propriety of his conduct, in every instance of 
its exercise, is ultimately referred to the wisdom of Congress, 
and by Congress it must be judged. He is authorized to do the 
act, but Congress is to examine it when done, and to confirm or 
reverse it. The Secretary may change the deposits ; but, when 
changed. Congress is to decide on the causes of such change, 
with authority either to sanction the removal, or to restore the 
deposits, according to its own judgment of right and expe- 

In order to decide whether the act of the Secretary ought to 
be confirmed, it is requisite, in the first place, to form a just 
opinion of the true extent of his power under the law ; and, in 
the second place, to consider the validity of the reasons which 
he has specially assigned for the exercise of that power in the 
present case. 

The opinion of the Secretary is, that his power over the de- 
posits, so far as respects the rights of the bank, is not limited to 
any particular contingencies, but is absolute and unconditionaL 
If it be absolute and unconditional so far as respects the rights 
of the bank, it must be absolute and unconditional in all other 
Kvipects; because it is obvious, if there be any limitation, that 
such limitation is imposed as much for the benefit of the bank 
as for the security of the country. The bank has contracted for 
the keeping of the public moneys, and paid for it a» for a privi- 


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lege or benefit It has agreed, at the same time, that the Secns 
tary shall possess the power of removal; but then it is also 
agreed, that, whenever this power is exercised, the reasons there- 
for shall be reported to Congress ; C!ongress being thus consti- 
tuted the final judge, as well of the rights of the bank in this par- 
ticular, as of the good of the country. So that, if the Secretary's 
power be in truth absolute and unconditional, it restrains Con- 
gress from judging whether the public good is injured by the re- 
moval, just as much as it restrains it fi-om judging whether the 
rights of the bank are injured by the removal ; because the limit- 
ation, if any, is equally for the security of the bank and of the 

If the bank be interested in retaining the deposits, then it is 
interested in the truth or falsity, in the sufficiency or insufficiency, 
of the reasons given for their removal. Especially is it so inter- 
ested, since these reasons are to be rendered to a tribunal which 
IS to judge over the Secretary, and may form a different opinion 
on the validity of these reasons, and may reverse his decision. 
It clearly has an interest in retaining the deposits, and therefore 
is as clearly concerned in the reasons which the Secretary may 
give for their removal. And as he is bound to give reasons, this 
very circumstance shows that his authority is not absolute and 
unconditional ; for how can an appeal be given from the decis- 
ion of an absolute power ? and how can such a power be called 
on to give reasons for any instance of its exercise ? If it be ab- 
solute, its only reason is a reference to its own will. 

The committee think, therefore, that no absolute and uncon- 
ditional power was conferred on the Secretary ; that no author- 
ity was given him by which he could deprive the bank of the 
custody of the public moneys, without reason ; and that there- 
fore his opinion is not to be admitted ; that in no event can any 
order for removing the deposits impair the right secured to the 
bank by the charter. If removed without good cause, the com- 
mittee think the removal does impair the rights of the bank. 

But the opinion of the Secretary, as to his own powers, is 
hardly more limited in respect to the government and the coun- 
try, than in regard to the rights of the bank. His opinion is, 
that it is his duty, and within his authority, in this view, also, to 
withdraw the deposits of the public money from the bank when* 
ever such a change would, in any degree, promote the public 


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interest. " The safety of the deposits " he says, " the ability of 
the bank to meet its engagements, its fidelity in the performance 
of its obligations, are only a part of the considerations by which 
his judgment must be guided. The general interest and conven- 
ience of the people must regulate his conduct" 

By the general interest and convenience of the people, the 
Secretary can only mean his own sense of that interest and con- 
venience, because they are no otherwise to be ascertained than 
by his own judgment. His construction of the law is, therefore, 
that he has power tx) remove the deposits whenever, for any rea- 
son, he thinks the public good requires it. In this interpretation 
of the design and object of the law, and this broad construction 
of the Secretary's power, the committee do not concur. Al- 
though the power of the Secretary is not restricted by any 
express words or terms, nor by any particular occasions for its 
exercise specifically and expressly designated or prescribed by 
the law, yet it is not to be admitted, as the committee think, 
that this power is to be exercised capriciously, or in an arbitrary 
manner, or for loose or conjectural reasons, or on any idea of 
an unlimited discretion vested in the Secretary to judge on 
the' general question of the public welfare ; or, indeed, on any 
other grounds than those of necessity, or plain and manifest ex- 
pediency, directly connected with the subject over which the 
power exists. 

The keeping of the public money is not a matter which is left, 
or was intended to be left, at the will of the Secretary, or any 
other officer of the government. This public money has a place 
fixed by law, and settled by contract; and this place is the Bank 
of the United States. In this place it is to remain until some 
event occur requiring its removal. To remove it, therefore, 
from this place, without the occurrence of just cause, is to thwart 
the end and design of the law, defeat the will of Congress, and 
violate the contract into which the government has solemnly 

It is fit to be observed, that no other law confers on the Sec- 
retary such a wide discretion over the public interests in regard 
to any subject, or gives him a power to act on the rights of oth- 
ers, or on the rights of the public, in any part of his official du- 
ties, with so unlimited an authority as is here asserted. Every- 
where else he appears in the character of a limited and restricted 


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agent He is the financial officer of the government ; he is the 
head of the Department of the Treasury. His duty is, to report 
annually to Congress the state of the finances, and to commu- 
nicate to either house, when requested, any information respect- 
ing the treasury ; and he is to superintend the collection of the 
revenue. But he has no authority over the circulating medium 
of the country, either metallic or paper ; nor has he the control 
of the national currency. It is no part of his duty either to con- 
laract or expand the circulation of bank paper, nor in any other 
way to exercise a general superintendence over the money sys- 
tem of the country. These general interests of the government 
and the people are not confided to his hands by any of the laws 
which created his office, and have prescribed his duties ; and the 
committee are of opinion, that the charter of the bank no more 
intended to give such a wide scope to the Secretary in regard to 
the deposits, than other laws intended to give him the same wide 
scope in respect to other duties of his office. No intimation of 
such intention is found either in the charter itself, or in any of 
the legislative debates which took place in both houses when 
the bank was established, or in the discussions which have been 
had on the various occasions which have been more recently 
presented for calling forth the sentiment of Congress. In none 
of these sources is there to be found any proof that the legisla- 
ture has delegated, or intended to delegate, this extraordinary 
power of judging of the general interest of the people to the Sec- 
retary of the Treasury. Such a power, did he possess it, would 
necessarily make him the general superintendent of all the pro- 
ceedings of the bank ; because it would enable him to compel 
the bank to conform all its operations to his pleasure, under pen- 
alty of suffering a removal of the public moneys. This would 
be little less than placing all the substantial power of managing 
the bank in his hands. But he is not by law its manager, nor 
one of its managers ; nor has he any right, in any form, to inter 
fere in its management. On the contrary, the very language of 
the charter rejects all idea of such general supervision over it: 
concerns by him, or any other officer of government That Ian 
guage is, that, ^^'for the management of the affairs of the corpo 
ration^ there shall be twenty-five directors annually chosen " , 
and, under the restrictions contained in the charter, these direc- 
tors are intrusted with the whole general business of the bank, 


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subject, of course, to all the provisions of the charter and the 
by-laws ; subject, too, always to the inspection and examination 
of either house of Congress ; subject always to regular inquiry 
and trial ; and bound always to communicate to the bead of the 
treasury department, on request, statements of its amount of 
stock, debts due, moneys deposited, notes in circulation, and 
specie on hand. 

Under these restrictions, the establishment of its offices, and 
the appointment of its officers ; the amount of its discounts, 
and every thing respecting those discounts ; its purchases and 
sales of exchange, and all other concerns of the institution, are 
to be conducted and managed by the directors. There is noth- 
ing in the charter giving the slightest authority to the Secretary 
to decide, as between the bank on the one hand, and the govern- 
ment or the people on the other, whether the general manage- 
ment of the directors is wise or unwise ; or whether, in regard 
to matters not connected with the deposits, it has or has not 
violated the conditions of its charter. The statement which the 
bank is bound to make to the Secretary, he may lay before Con- 
gress ; and he is doubtless bound by his official duty to com- 
municate to Congress any other information in his possession, 
tending, in his judgment, to show that the bank has disregarded 
its charter, or failed to fulfil all or any of its duties ; but here his 
authority, so far as it regards the general course and operation 
of the bank, ends. It is then for Congress to act, if it see occa- 
sion, and to adopt the regular remedies for any evils which it 
may suppose to exist But it transcends the power of Congress 
itself to pronounce the charter violated, without hearing, with- 
out trial, without judgment; far less is any such power of pro- 
nouncing final Judgment confided to the Secretary. His power 
simply is, that, in regard to the deposits of the public money, he 
is to judge, in the first instance, whether just cause has arisen 
for their removal 

The Secretary seems to suppose, indeed the very basis of his 
argument assumes, that the law has confided to him a general 
guardianship over the public welfare, so far as that welfare is in 
any way connected with the bank, or liable to be affected by its 
proceedings ; aiud that he holds the power of removing the de- 
posits as the means or instrument by which he is to enforce his 
own opinions respecting that welfare. The conmiittee do not 


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adopt this opinion. They think that, if such had been the de- 
sign of the law, its provisions would have been very different 
firoia those which it does actually contain. 

If such general guardianship had been intended to be con- 
ferred on the Secretary, it is reasonable to believe that he would 
have been vested with powers more suitable to such a high 
trust If he had been made, or intended to be made, general 
inspector or superintendent, other authority than merely that of 
removing the deposits would have been given him ; for this plain 
reason, that the government and the country have interests of 
much magnitude connected with the bank, besides the deposits 
of the public moneys in its vaults ; and to which interests, if 
endangered, the removal of the deposits would bring no secu- 

The government is jwroprietor of seven millions of the stock 
of the bank ; and yet no authority is given to the Secretary to 
iell this stock under any circumstances whatever, or in any other 
way to interfere with it. The bills and notes of the bank are 
made receivable in all payments to the United States, until Con- 
gress shall Gftherwise order ; and no power is given to the Secre- 
tary to prevent their being so received, either during the session 
of Congress or in its recess, however the credit of these bills 
and notes might become depreciated. How is it possible to 
conceive that, if Congress intended to give to the Secretary a 
general right to judge of the operations and proceedings of the 
bank, and a power, of course, to declare when it had violated 
its duty, and was no longer trustworthy, it should yet leave him 
under an absolute obligation to receive its biUs and notes in 
all payments to the treasury, though they might have lost all 
credit, and place no means in his hands to execute his high 
authority of superintendent, except the mere power of removing 
the dep€>sits of the public money ? 

Wherever it is dear that Congress has given the Secretary ai 
power, it has given him the means of informing his judgment 
as to the propriety of exercising that power. He has power to 
remove the deposits; and ajnple means are afforded him by 
which he may learn, from time to time, whether those deposits 
itte safe. For this purpose, it is expressly made the duty of the 
bank to furnish him, as often as he shall require, if not oftener 
than once a week, with statements of the amount of the capital 


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stock of the corporation, of the debts due to it, of the moneys 
deposited in it, of its notes in circulation, and specie on hand ; 
and he has a right to inspect the general accounts in the books 
of the bank relating to this statement. Tliis statement enables 
him to judge of the solvency and stability of the bank, and of 
the safety of the public money deposited in it Here, then, is a 
power, and aU appropriate means given for the just and enlight- 
ened exercise of that power. Confined to the deposits, the 
power is accompanied with all rational auxiliaries and attend- 

But for the depreciation of the bills of the bank, should that 
happen, and for other cases of maladministration. Congress has 
provided just and appropriate remedies, to be applied by itself 
or others, in exclusion of the Secretary. For redress of these 
evils, no power is given to him. For the security of the public 
interest, the law reserves a right to either house of Congress to 
inquire, at all times, into the proceedings of the bank ; and if, 
on such inquiry, it appears in any respect to have violated its 
charter. Congress may bring it to trial and judgment Power 
is given to the President, also, to institute judicial proceedings, 
if he shall have reason to believe that any such violation has 
taken place. But no such power is given to the Secretary. 

The proposition, then, cannot be maintained, that Congress 
has relied, for the security of the public interests and the preser- 
vation of the general welfare, so far as it is connected with the 
bank, on a general discretion reposed in the Secretary, for two 
reasons ; — first, because it has not given him the appropriate 
powers of remedy in the most important instances; and sec- 
ondly, because it has in those instances either expressly reserved 
those powers to itself, or expressly conferred them on the Presi- 

If the Secretary cannot prevent the notes of the bank firom 
being received at the custom-houses and the land-offices, even 
after they should be discredited ; if he have no power to touch, 
in any way, the seven millions of stock belonging to the govern- 
ment ; if the power of examination into the proceedings of the 
bank be given, not to him, but to either house of Congress ; if 
he have no power, but Congress and the President each has 
power, to direct a legal investigation into the conduct of the 
bank, — how can it possibly be maintained that a general in- 


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spection and guardianship over the public welfare, so far as it is 
connected with the bank, is confided to him ; and that his au- 
thority to remove the deposits was given, not to protect the 
deposits themselves, and secure their proper use, but to enable 
him to enforce upon the bank, under penalty of their removal, 
such a course of management as his sense of the public interest 
and of the convenience of the people may require ? Such a con- 
struction would give a strange and an undeserved character to 
the provisions of the law by which the bank was created. It 
would convert the power of removal, intended for remedy and 
redress, into a mere instrument of punishment ; and it would 
authorize the infliction of that punishment, without hearing or 
trial, in the very cases in which the law yet says, that, if viola- 
tion of duty be charged, the charge shall be heard and tried 
before judgment is pronounced ; and the duty of preferring this 
charge, and of prosecuting it to judgment, is given, not to the 
Secretary, but to Congress and to the President 

The contingent power given to the Secretary to remove the 
deposits evidently shows that Congress contemplated the pos- 
sibility that some sudden evil might happen, for which either no 
other remedy was provided, or none which could be applied with 
sufficient promptitude ; and for which evil, removal would be a 
just and appropriate remedy. The remedy prescribed, then, 
teaches us the nature of the evils which were apprehended. 
We can readily understand that threatened danger to the funds 
was one, and probably the chief, of those evils ; because change 
into other hands is the ready and appropriate measure which 
would rationally suggest itself to all minds as the proper secu- 
rity against such danger ; and change is the remedy actually 
prescribed. Neglect to transfer the deposits from one place to 
another, as the exigencies of government might require, and 
thereby to furnish those facilities of exchange which the charter 
demands of the bank without commission and without charge, 
is another evil, for which, should it happen, the remedy would 
naturaUy be the withdrav^dng of the funds and the placing of 
them in their former custody, so that they could be transferred 
or exchanged by the treasury itself. 

But who can see any connection or relation, such as ordinari- 
ly exists between an evil apprehended and a remedy proposed, 
between such an evil as a supposed over-discount, for instance, 


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by the bank at one time, or an under-discount at another, and 
the abrapt removal of all the public deposits ? And if no one 
can see the connection, how can it be supposed that, in giving 
the power of removal as a remedy, Congress had in view any 
such evil ? 

A question may arise between the government and the bank 
respecting the right of the parties to the sum of one hundred 
and fifty thousand dollars, as in the case of the French bilL It 
is a question on which different opinions may be entertained, 
and which is, in its nature, fit for judicial decision. Does any 
man imagine that such a case as this was in the eye of (Con- 
gress when they granted the power of withdrawing the whole 
public treasure firom the bank? Can it be for one moment 
maintained, that Congress intended that, in such a case, the 
Secretary should compel the bank to adopt his own opinion, by 
the exercise of a power, the .very exertion of which deranges the 
cunrency, interferes with the industry of the people, and, under 
some circumstances, would hazard the safety of the whole 
revenue ? 

The committee think it cannot admit of rational doubt, that, 
if Congress had intended to give to the Secretary any power 
whatever not directly touching the deposits themselves, not 
only would it have specially pointed out the cases, but it would 
also, most assuredly, have provided a remedy more suitable for 
eax3h case. The nature of the remedy, therefore, which is pre- 
scribed, clearly shows the evils intended to be provided against 

To admit that the Secretary's conduct is subject to no control 
but his own opinion of the general interest and convenience of 
the people, is to acknowledge the existence, in his hands, of a 
discretion so broad and imlimited, that its consequences can be 
no less than to subject, not only all the operations of the bank 
and its offices, but its powers and capax^ities, perhaps its very 
existence, to his individual will. He is of opinion that the law 
creating it is, in many of its provisions, unconstitutional; he 
may not unnaturally, liierefore, esteem it to be his duty to re- 
strain and obstruct, to the utmost of his power, the operation of 
those provisions thus deemed by him to be unconstitutionaL 
He is of opinion that the existence of such a powerful moneyed 
monopoly is dangerous to the liberties of the people. It would 
result from this, that if, in the discharge of his official duty, he ii 


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to follow no guide but his own sense of the interest of the peo- 
ple, he might feel bound to counteract the operations of this 
dangerous monopoly, diminish its circulation, curtail its means, 
and prejudice its credit To accomplish these very purposes, 
and these alone, he might withdraw the deposits. The power 
given him by Congress would thus be used to defeat the will of 
Congress in one of its most important acts, by discrediting, and 
otherwise injuriously affecting, an institution which Congress 
has seen fit to establish, and which it has declared shall con- 
tinue, with all its powers, to the expiration of its charter. 

The power conferred on the Secretary is a trust power, and, 
like other trust powers, in the absence of express terms setting 
forth the occasions for its exercise, it is to be construed accord- 
ing to the subject and object of the trust. As in other cases of 
the deposit of moneys in banks, the primary object sought to 
be accomplished by Congress, by that provision of the charter 
now under consideration, is the safe-keeping of the money. The 
Secretary's trust, therefore, primarily and principally respects 
this safe-keeping. But another object is distinctly disclosed in 
Uie charter, which object is intimately connected with the fund ; 
and that is its transfer and exchange from place to place, as the 
convenience of government might require. The Secretary's 
trust, therefore, respects also this other object, thus connected 
with the fund ; and when either of these objects requires a re- 
moval, a removal becomes a just exercise of his authority. To 
this extent, none can doubt the existence of his power. If in 
truth the money is believed to be unsafe, if in truth the bank 
will not grant the facilities which it has promised, in consid- 
eration of receiving and holding the fund, then certainly it 
ought to be removed. But here the power must stop, or else it 
is altogether unbounded. Here is a just and reasonable limit, 
consistent with the character of the power, consistent with the 
general duties of the Secretary, and consistent with the nature 
of the remedy provided. 

The charter of the bank is the law ; it is the expressed will 
of the legislature. That will is that the bank shall exist, with 
all its powers, to the end of its term. That will, too, as the 
committee think, is, that the public deposits shall continue in 
the bank so long as they are safe, and so long as the bank ful- 
fils all its duty in regard to them. The Secretary assumes a 

VOL. IV. 6 


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broader ground. He claims a right to judge of the jMroceedinga 
of the bank on all subjects. Admitting the fund to be safe, and 
admitting that the bank has performed all its duties in regard to 
it, he claims an authority, nevertheless, to remove the deposits 
whenever he shall form an opinion, founded on the conduct of 
the bank in any particular whatever, and however unconnected 
with the public moneys, that the general interest of the people 
requires such removal. If, in his opinion, it discounts too little, 
or discounts too much, if it expands or contracts its circulation 
too fast or too slowly, if its committees are not properly organ- 
ized, if it claims damages on protested bills which it ought not 
to claim, if, in his opinion stiU, it is guilty of a wrongful med- 
dling in politics, or if it do any thing else not consistent with his 
sense of the public interest, he has a right to visit it with a with- 
drawal of the public money from its custody. If this claim of 
power be admitted, it would seem to the committee to be a fair 
result that the Secretary has power to withdraw the deposits for 
no other reason than that he differs with Congress upon its con- 
stitutional authority to create any bank, or upon the constitution- 
ality of this particular bank, or upon the utility of continuing it 
in the exercise of its chartered powers and privileges till its term 
shall expire. 

The committee, therefore, are of opinion, that it was not the 
intention of the legislature to give to the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury a general guardianship over the public interests in all mat- 
ters connected with the bank ; but that his power is a limited 
one, and is confined to the safety and the proper management 
of that portion of the public interests to which it expressly re- 
lates; that is to say, to the public moneys in deposit in the 

But the extent of the Secretary's discretion, as asserted by him- 
self, reaches even farther than the wide range which the commit- 
tee have here described. It is not confined to the protection of 
all the various interests which the government and the country 
have in the bank, or to a supervision and control over all the 
conduct of the bank; but it embraces all branches of the public 
interest, and touches every thing which in any way respects the 
good of the people. He supposes himself rightfully to possess 
the power of removing the deposits, whenever any causes, 
springing up in any part of the whole wide field of the general 


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ialerest, may appear to him to call for such removaL Notwith- 
standing he may suppose all the great interests confided to the 
bank to be perfectly safe, notwithstanding he may have no oc- 
casion to complain of any part of its conduct, notwithstanding, 
even, it may so have demeaned itself as to have become the 
object of his favor and regard, yet, if his construction be admit- 
ted, he may remove the deposits simply because he may be of 
opinion that he might place them, with a prospect of still great- 
er advantage, in other hands. If he be of opinion that the com- 
merce of the country or its manufactures would be benefited by 
withdrawing the public money from one bank and placing it in 
many, that would be an exercise of authority entirely within the 
limits which he prescribes to himself. It would be a case in 
^ich he would only follow his own sense of what the general 
interest and convenience of the people required. He might 
think, too, that, by withdrawing all the public treasure from the 
Bank of the United States, and placing it in the hands of twenty 
or thirty State banks, to remain there during his pleasure, and 
to be drawn thence, again, at his will, he might be enabled 
effectually to advance certain other objects, which, whatever 
others might think of them, he might consider to be essential to 
the good of the people. All this, if his doctrine be right, is with- 
in his just authority. A power necessarily running to this ex- 
tent is a powor, in the opinion of the committee, which can 
never be admitted. 

Having thus expressed an opinion upon the general extent of 
the power claimed by the Secretary, the committee proceed to 
consider the reasons which he has reported to Congress as the 
particular grounds on which the power has been exercised in the 
present case. 

The first reason assigned by the Secretary is the near ap- 
proach of the period when the bank charter will expire. That 
period is the 4th of March, 1836, more than two years distant; 
nearly two years and a half at the time of the removaL Three 
sessions of Congress are, in the mean time, to be held ; and in- 
asmuch as the Secretary himself says that " the power over the 
place of the deposits for the public money would seem properly 
to belong to the legislative department of government," the com- 
mittee think it might reasonably have been expected by him 
that Congress would not fail to make, in season, suitable regu- 


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lations on a subject thus admitted to be within the just exerdse 
of its authority, and properly one of its duties. 

Why, then, should he not have waited till Congress had seen 
fit to act upon the subject, or had manifested a disposition not 
to act ? The matter of the deposits had been before Congress 
last session ; and Congress had then thought no provision to be, 
as yet, necessary. Its undoubted sense was, that the public 
moneys should remain where they were. This was manifested 
by proofs too clear to be questioned. Another session was fast 
approaching; and why was not the whole subject left where 
Congress had chosen to leave it at the end of its last session, to 
await the free exercise of its legislative power at this session ? 
It might have been fit for the executive to call the attention of 
Congress, at this time, to the necessity of some legal provisions 
respecting the future custody of the public moneys; and it would, 
doubtless, have been proper for Congress, without such call, to 
take up and consider the subject of its own accord ; but the 
committee see no reason whatever, in the approaching expira- 
tion of the charter, for a change so sudden, and producing such 
important effects, made so long before that expiration, at a time 
when Congress had recently had the subject before it, and when, 
too, it was again about to assemble, and would naturally have 
reasonable and full opportunity to adopt any necessary legisla- 
tive provisions. The Secretary has stated no reason satisfactory 
to the comradttee for not deferring this important step until the 
meeting of Congress. He sets forth no emergency, no sudden 
occasion, nothing which, in their judgment, made immediate 
action by him necessary. 

The Secretary supposes it to have been his duty to act on 
the belief that the bank charter would not be renewed ; and he 
refers to recent popular elections in support of this opinion. 
The committee believe it altogether unusual to assign such 
reasons for public and official acts. On such subjects, opin- 
ions may be very various. Different and opposite conclu- 
sions may be drawn from the same facts by different persons. 
One man may think that a candidate has been elected on ac- 
count of his opposition to the bank ; another may see only that 
he has been chosen notwithstanding such opposition. One may- 
regard the opposition, or the support of any measure, by a par- 
ticular candidate, as having been itself a promoting cause of the 


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success of his election; another may esteem it as a formidable 
objection, overcome, however, by more powerful reasons ; and 
others, again, may be of opinion that it produced little or no 
effect on the one side or the other. But if inferences less uncer- 
tain could be drawn from such occurrences, the committee stiU 
think, that for a public officer to presume what law the legisla- 
ture will or will not pass, respecting matters of finance, from 
the election of a particular person to the chief magistracy, im- 
plies a consequence from such election which the constitutiond 
independence and dignity of the legislature will not allow to be 

But if, for this or other reasons, the Secretary had persuaded 
himself that the charter of the bank would not be renewed, still 
it certainly did not follow that the deposits ought to be removed 
before Ck>ngres8 had decided on the hands into which they 
should be transferred, and had made suitable regulation respects 
ing their future custody. If there were good ground for think- 
ing that CJongress would not recharter the bank, for that very 
reason there was equcdly good ground for supposing ihat it 
would make proper and seasonable provision for the keeping of 
the public moneys elsewhere. How could the Secretary doubt 
that CJongress would omit to do that which he avers to be one 
of its appropriate duties ? The question is, not what measures 
Congress might be expected to adopt, such as the extension or 
renewal of the charter of the bank ; but whether it ought not 
to have been presumed that it would adopt some mecuiure, and 
that a seasonable and proper one, according to its power and 
its duties ; and whether, therefore, this anticipation of the ac- 
tion of CJongress, on the eve of its session, is to be justified. 
The bank charter declares that the deposits of the public money 
shall be made in the bank and its offices, and that the bank 
shall continue till March, 1836. Where does the Secretary 
find his power to decide that the deposits shall be so made but 
for seventeen years from the date of the charter, instead of 
twenty ? If he may thus withdraw the deposits two or three 
years before the expiration of the charter, what should restrain 
him firom exercising the same authority five years before its ex- 
piration, or ten years ? A plain and cogent necessity, the exist- 
ence of a case which admits of no reasonable doubt, and which 
is too urgent fcNr delay till Congress can provide for it, could 


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alone justify an interference with the public moneys, lodged in 
the bank by law, for the double purpose of safe-keeping and 
fulfilment of solemn contract 

But supposing it not reasonable for the Secretary to have 
expected the interposition of Congress, and admitting that he 
might consider the withdrawal of the deposits as an act which 
was to be done, at some time, by himself, how can it, neverthe- 
less, be argued, that so early and so sudden a withdrawal was 
necessary ? The committee can perceive no possible reason for 
this in any state of facts made known to them. The withdrawal 
of the money, left on deposit, from a bank whose charter is 
about to expire, is naturally one of the things longest postponed. 
It is as safe the last day of the existence of the bank, in com- 
mon cases, as at any previous period. The bank expects the 
recall of its deposits near the period of its expiration, and pre- 
pares itself accordingly. The operation, if made gradually, 
produces tne least possible disturbance in the business of the 

Former experience would seem to have held out a salutary 
light for the guidance of the Secretary, in this part of his official 
duty. At the time of the expiration of the charter of the former 
bank, Mr. Gallatin was Secretary of the Treasury, and the pub- 
lic deposits were in the bank. The charter of the bank was 
to end on the 4th of March, 1811 ; and it does not appear that 
Mr. Gallatin thought it necessary to make any provision what- 
ever for removing any part of the deposits, except by drawing 
on them for the common uses of government, until late in the 
very month preceding the expiration of the charter. A large 
amount of those deposits remained, indeed, in the vaults of the 
bank after the charter had expired, and until they were wanted 
in the general operations of the treasury. And why should it 
be otherwise ? Why should that be done suddenly now, which 
the Secretary thinks could not be done suddenly hereafter, with- 
out great inconvenience ? Is it not the just inference from his 
own argument, that the thing should not have been done sud- 
denly at all ? As to the idea that the credit of the paper of the 
bank will be depreciated near the time of the expiration of its 
charter, or that it would be inconvenient for it, at that time, to 
be called on for the deposits, the committee are utterly at a loss 
to see the slightest foundation for such an opinion. Experience 


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is against it; and all reason, as the committee think, is against 
it also. There is nothing to render it in any degree doubtful 
that the bills of the bank will be in as good credit the last day 
of its charter, and even after that time, if any shall be out- 
standing, as they are now ; and there is as little to render it 
doubtful that then, as now, the bank would be competent to an- 
swer all demands upon it In the opinion of the committee, 
the withdrawal of the public funds was both unnecessarily early 
and unnecessarily sudden. It might have been made gradually, 
it might have been deferred ; and it might have been, and ought 
to have been, as the committee think, not ventured upon at all, 
until the attention of Congress itself had been called to the sub- 
ject The committee, therefore, entirely dissent from this first ' 
reason reported by the Secretary. They see nothing which 
proves to them the existence of the slightest occasion for taking 
this important step at the moment it was taken. So far as it 
depends on this reason, the committee think the removal was 
made without necessity, without caution or preparation, with a 
suddenness naturally producing mischievous consequences, and 
in unjustifiable anticipation of the legislation of Congress. 

But the Secretary thinks there are other reasons for the re- 
moval, growing out of the manner in which the affairs of the 
bank have been managed, and its money applied, which would 
have made it his duty to withdraw the deposits at any period 
of the charter. 

Of these reasons, arising from the alleged misconduct of the 
bank, the first is, that many important money transactions of the 
bank, instead of being managed by a board of seven directors, 
are placed under the control of a committee of exchange, of 
which committee no one of the public directors, as they are 
called, is allowed to be a member. 

This charge consists of two parts ; first, that the discounts 
of bills are made by a committee, and not by a quorum of the 
board ; second, that the public directors are not allowed to be of 
this committee. 

It is not alleged that, in the discounts of bills by this commit- 
tee, any indiscretion has been committed, or any loss incurred, 
or that, in consequence thereof, any facility to the mercantile 
community has been withheld, or any duty of the bank to the 
government violated. The objection is, simply, that bills are dis* 


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counted by a committee. Supposing this to be an irregularity, 
or illegality, in the proceedings of the board, how is it to be cor- 
rected by withdrawing the deposits ? What connection is there 
between the two things ? It is not pretended that this mode of 
discounting bills endangered the deposits; it is not pretended 
that it made the bank either less able or less willing to perform 
every one of its duties to government. How should the with- 
drawal of the deposits, then, be su^ested by the discovery of 
such an irregularity, real or supposed ? The committee are not 
able to perceive the least propriety in applying the power of re- 
moval to a proceeding of this kind, even if it were admitted to 
be irregular or illegal. But is the practice illegal ? It is believed 
to be not at all unusual. It is believed to be quite common, in 
banks of large business, for bills of exchange, which are pre- 
sented every day, and almost every hour in the day, to be dis- 
counted either by a committee of the directors, or by the presi- 
dent, or even other officers, acting under such general orders and 
instructions as the directors, at their stated meetings, prescribe. 
A large board of directors cannot assemble every day, perhaps 
not oftener than twice a week. If bills of exchange could only 
be discounted at these periodical meetings, the business of ex- 
change could not go on with the promptitude and despatch so 
important to commercial men in such transactions. The com- 
mittee suppose the truth of these remarks will be at once admit- 
ted by all who have knowledge of business of this kind. 

The general management and control, the authority of exam- 
ining and supervising, of contracting or enlarging the amount 
of daily discounts, according to the state of the bank, and of 
giving every other order and direction on the subject, still remains 
with the directors, and is constantly exercised by them. They 
still manage the affairs of the bank, in the language of the char- 
ter, although they may depute to a committee the authority of 
inquiring and deciding upon the credit of persons whose names 
are on bills of exchange offered for discount, and on the rate 
of exchange current at the day. The legal question would be, 
whether the directors, by rule or by law, may not authorize a 
small number of their own board to discount bills. The bank 
has been advised that it might rightfully do this ; and if it be 
not clear that this opinion is right, it is certainly far from dear 
that it is wrong ; and in this state of the question, the general 


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practice of other banks, under similar provisions in their char- 
ters, may well relieve the directors from the imputation of inten- 
tional mismanagement 

If , in all this, the bank has violated its charter, what other 
banks of extensive business have not done the same thing? 

But the other subject of complaint, and that which seems to 
be regarded as the more offensive part of this regulation, is, that 
the public directors, as they are called, have not been allowed to 
be on this committee. 

It may -be observed, in the first place, that, if the discounting 
of bills of exchange by a committee, instead of the whole board 
of directors, be illegal, it would hardly be rendered leged by pla- 
cing any or all of these public directors on the committee as 
members. But the Secretary seems to suppose that there was 
some particular object in this exclusion of these directors, as if 
tiiere had been something wrong to be done, and therefore se- 
crets to be kept, by this conunittee. It is not easy to see what 
foundation there can be for this opinion. All those discounts 
are matter of record. They appear every day in the books of 
the bank. Every director, on or off the committee, sees them, 
or may see them, at pleasure. There is no secrecy, nor any mo- 
tive for secrecy, so far as this committee can perceive. Very 
proper causes may have existed, for aught that can be known 
by the Senate, for the omission of these particular directors from 
this particular committee. Their services might have been 
deemed more useful in other committees ; or, however respecta- 
ble in general character, or however useful in other parts of the 
direction, they may have been esteemed not so well acquainted 
as others with the business of foreign or domestic exchange. 
And even if there were, or are, other causes for the omission, such 
as are less consistent with the existence of that harmony and 
mutual respect which it is so desirable should prevail in such a 
board, these causes cannot furnish any just ground for asserting, 
either that the business of exchange was illegally conducted, or 
that the constitution of the committee was proof of the exist- 
ence of any motive not fit to be avowed. 

But the Secretary entertains an opinion respecting the charac- 
ter and duties of the directors appointed by the President and 
Senate, in which the committee do not concur. He denomi- 
nates them " public directors," and " officers of the government" 


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By the charter of the bank there are to be twenty-five direo- 
tore. Of these, twenty are to be chosen by the individual stock- 
holders, and five appointed by the President, with the advice and 
consent of the Senate. As the government owned one fifth of 
the stock of the bank, it was judged expedient to place in the 
hands of the President and Senate the appointment of one fifth 
of all the directors. But they are not called public directors, 
nor officers of the government, nor public agents ; nor are they 
entitled, so far as the committee can perceive, to either of these 
appellations, any more than the other directors. The whole 
twenty-five directors are joint managers of a joint fund, each 
possessing precisely the same powers and charged with the same 
duties as every other. They derive their appointments, it is 
true, from different sources, but when appointed, their authority 
is the same. There is not one word in the charter intimating, 
in the remotest manner, that the five directors appointed by the 
President and Senate have any particular duty, or are the ob- 
jects of any peculiar trust The charter calls them, not gov- 
ernment directors, not public directors, but simply the directors 
appointed by the President and Senate. They are placed in the 
direction to consult with the other directors for the common 
good of the bank, and to act with these others, and vote with 
them on all questions. They are, what the law calls them, di- 
rectors of the bank, not agents of the government. They are 
joint trustees with others in a joint interest If any thing ille- 
gal or improper takes place in the board, they are bound to re- 
sist it by the duty which they owe the individual stockholders, 
as much as by the duty they owe the government ; because they 
are agents of the individual stockholders, and have the same 
authority to bind them by their acts as to bind the government 
In like manner, it is the duty of those directors who are ap- 
pointed by the individual stockholders to give notice, as well to 
government as to the stockholders, if any thing illegal takes place 
or is threatened. All those directors act and vote together, on 
the smallest as well as on the highest occasions, and, by their 
joint votes, bind the corporation, and bind both the government 
and individual stockholders to the extent of their respective in- 
terests in the corporation. 

If the directors appointed by the President and Senate had 
been excluded by the charter from any part of the power exer- 


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csised by the others ; if it had been forbidden them to interfere, to 
the same extent and with the same effect, aa the rest, in the 
common business of the bank, there might be some reason for 
supposing that an uncommon character, a character not so much 
of cooperation as of supervision and inspection, was intended to 
be conferred on them. But they do interfere, and justly, in all 
transactions of the bank. They do vote and act on all subjects 
like the other directors. Being, then, possessed of this common 
character of directors, and enjoying all its powers to the fullest 
extent, the committee know no form of argument by which an 
uncommon and extraordinary character is to be raised by con- 
struction, and superadded to the common character of directora 
which thus already belongs to them. 

By granting the charter, and by accepting it, the government, 
on the one hand, and the individucd stockholders, on the other, 
have agreed, that, of the directors, as joint agents of all parties, 
the stockholders shall appoint twenty and the government five. 
The interest of all parties is confided to this joint agency ; and 
any distinction in their powers, as arising from their different 
modes of appointment, is, in the judgment of the committee, not 
to be sustained. They regard such distinction as entirely incon- 
sistent with the nature of the agency created, and as deriving 
not the least countenance from any thing contained in the law. 
The committee, nevertheless, to avoid misapprehension, wish to 
repeat, that it is undoubtedly the duty of the directors appointed 
by the President, and of all other directors, to give notice, both 
to government and the stockholders, of any violation of the 
charter committed or threatened. 

The Secretary of the Treasury has thought proper to observe 
that the measures of the committee of exchange are, as it ap- 
pears, designedly, and by system, so arranged as to conceal from 
the officers of the government transactions in which the public 
are deeply involved. This, it must be admitted, is a very se- 
rious charge. It imputes a corrupt motive. The committee 
have sought for the foundation, either in evidence or argument, 
on which this charge rests. They have found neither. They 
find only the charge, in the first place ; and then they find the 
charge immediately stated as a fact, and relied on as the basis 
of other charges. 

The secoad reason for the removal specially reported by the 


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Secretary as arising from the conduct of the bank, respects the 
bill of exchange drawn by the Secretary of the Treasury on the 
government of France, and purchased by the bank. 

The general facts connected with this case are these : — 

By the late treaty of indemnity between the United States 
and France, it was stipulated that the French government 
should pay to that of the United States twenty-five millions of 
francs, to be distributed among those American citizens who 
had claims against France for the unlawful seizure, capture, and 
condemnation of their vessels and property ; the whole sum to 
be paid in annual instalments of four million one hundred and 
sixty-six thousand six hundred and sixty-six francs each, into 
the hands of such persons as should be authorized by the gov- 
ernment of the United States to receive it ; the first instalment 
to be paid at the expiration of one year from the exchange of 
the ratifications. 

On the expiration of the year, the Secretary drew a bill of ex- 
change, signed by himself as Secretary, on the French govern- 
ment, for the amount of this instalment, and sold it to the bank, 
like any other bill of exchange, and received the proceeds by- 
credit of the amount to the account of the Treasurer in the bank. 

On the presentment of this bill at the French treasury, pay- 
ment was refused ; the bill was accordingly duly protested, and 
it was taken up by a third person for account of the bank. The 
damages accruing on this bill, according to law and constant 
usage in such cases, are one hundred and fifty-eight thousand 
dollars. If this bill had been transferred by the bank, as proba- 
bly it was, the bank itself would have been answerable for dam- 
ages, even at a higher rate, if a third person had not taken up 
the bill for the honor of the bank. On receiving information of 
the protest of the bill, the officers of the bank, as was their duty, 
gave immediate notice to the treasury department, and accom- 
panied that notice with the information, always given in such 
cases, that the drawers of the bOl would be held answerable for 
the damages. Such is the substance of the facts in this case. 

The bank, it would appear, was willing to collect the bill on 
account of government, and to credit the treasury with the pro- 
ceeds when received, a course of proceeding which had this to 
recommend it, that the money to be paid on the bill was to be 
received by the government simply in trust for claimants under 


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the French treaty, and was not ultimately destined to the ordi- 
nary uses of the treasury. On the contrary, indeed before the 
dishonor of the bill was known, it had been made already the 
legal duty of the Secretary to place the fund, so soon as re- 
ceived, at interest, for the benefit of the claimants. 

But it was thought best to sell the bill, and to realize at once 
its amount into the treasury ; and the bill was sold to the bank 
in preference to others offering to purchase, for no reason, it is 
to be presumed, except that the terms of the bank were more 
satisfactory. The bill was thus purchased by the bank, and its 
proceeds credited to the treasury. This was a mere transaction 
of the purchase and sale of a bill of exchange. There was no 
trust confided to the bank, and no fiscal agency in the whole 
matter. Indeed, the agency of the bank had been declined, the 
Secretary preferring to deal with it, not as an agent, but as a 
purchaser, proposing to it not to collect the bill, but to buy it 
On being remitted to Europe, and presented for payment, the 
bill was protested. By the universal commercial law, the gov- 
ernment, on the occurrence of this protest, became amenable to 
the bank for the amount of the bill, with damages. These dam- 
ages may be ultimately claimed, with justice, from the French 
government, if the bill was drawn upon sufficient grounds, and 
on proper authority ; in other words, if the obligation of the 
French government was such, that it was bound to accept and 
pay the bill. But unless there be something in the case to vary 
the general rule, which the committee do not perceive, these 
damages were part of the debt which had become due to the 
bank, as much as the principal sum of the bill. If this be so, 
how could the directors relinquish this part of the debt any more 
than the other? They are agents for the corporation ; they act 
as trustees, and have no authority, without consideration, to re- 
leeise either to the government or to individuals debts due or 
properly belonging to the corporation. 

It has been suggested, that the bank should have taken up 
this bill when protested, on government account. Two answers 
may be given to this suggestion. The first is, that the bill had 
been taken up by a correspondent abroad, for account of the 
bank, before it was known in the United States that it had been 
protested. The second is, that it would have been unlawful for 
the bank to advance such amount to the government, or on ac- 

VOL. IV. 7 


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count of government, for the purpose of taking up this bill, or 
for any other purpose, without an act of Congress. The express 
words of the charter forbid it. 

But, as a reason for removing the deposits, it appears to the 
committee quite immaterial whether the bank be right or wrong 
in claiming these damages. If wrong, it will not recover them. 
It is not the judge of its own rights ; and if the appropriate tri- 
bunals shall decide that the bank was acting, on this occasion, 
or ought to have acted, as the agent of government, or that it 
was its duty to take up the bill on account of government, then 
the damages will not be awarded to it. In the worst aspect of 
this case, how can its conduct, in this respect, be any possible 
reason to justify the removal of the deposits ? What connec- 
tion has this occurrence with the safe-keeping of the public treas- 
ures, or with the remitting them from place to place, to meet the 
convenience of government, according to the duty of the bank 
under the charter ? The bank thinks itself entitled to damages 
on a protested bill purchased and held by itself, and drawn by 
government The Secretary of the Treasury thinks otherwise. 
If there be no reason to doubt the sincerity of the Secretary's 
conviction, there is as little to doubt the sincerity of that enter- 
tained by the bank ; and it is quite inconceivable to the com- 
mittee that the pendency of such a difference of opinion, on 
such a question, should furnish any reason whatever for with- 
drawing the deposits, unless it be at once admitted that the 
Secretary holds the power of removal as a perfectly arbitrary 
power, and may exercise it, by way of punishment, whenever, in 
any particular, the conduct or the opinions of the bank do not 
conform to his pleasure. 

The Secretary does not argue this matter. He offers no reap 
son in opposition to the legal right of the bank to the damages 
claimed. Indeed, he hardly denies the right He commences 
his observations on the subject by saying that the ruling prin- 
ciple of the bank is its own interest; and closes them with 
another declaration, that, as fiscal agent to the public, it availed 
itself of the disappointment of its principal for the purpose 
of enlarging its own profits. Assertions like these, however 
else they may be disposed of, cannot be made subjects of ar- 

The last charge preferred against the bank is, that it has used 


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Its pecuniary means with a view to obtain political power, and 
thereby secure the renewal of its charter. 

The very statement of such a charge, as a reason for remov- 
ing the deposits, is calculated to excite distrust in the wisdom 
and propriety of that measure ; because the charge, too general 
to be proved, i^ too general, also, to be disproved ; and, since it 
must always rest mainly on mere opinion, it might be made at 
any time, by any Secretary, against any bank. It would be 
therefore, always a convenient doak under which to disguise 
&^ true motives of official conduct 

If proof be made out that the funds of the bank have been 
applied to illegal objects, the proper mode of redress and punish- 
ment should have been adopted ; but what has this to do with 
the deposite ? As in the case of the French bill, the Secretary 
cannot justify the removal of the deposits on any such ground 
as this, unless it be conceded that he may use the power of re- 
moval as a punishment for any oflFence, of any kind, which the 
bank, in his opinion, may have committed. The committee 
have already expressed the opinion that no such latitude of 
power belongs to him ; and the assertion of such a power, for 
such a cause as is now under consideration, shows that the 
power ought never to belong to any Secretary; because the 
c^nce on account of which it is here proposed to be exercised 
b a political offence, incapable of definition, depending merely 
on the Secretary's opinion, and necessarily drawing into its con- 
sideration all the exciting controverted topics of the day. The 
bank, it is said, " has sought to obtain political power." What 
is the definition of such an offence as this ? What acts consti- 
tute it ? How is it to be tried ? Who is to be the judge ? 
What punishment shall fpUow conviction ? All must see that 
charges of this nature are but loose and vague accusations, 
which may be made at any time, and can never be either proved 
or disproved ; and to admit them as sufficient grounds to justify 
the removal of the deposits, would be to concede to the Secre- 
tary the possession of a power purely arbitrary. 

The main fact relied on for this cause of removal shows how 
extremely unsafe all proceedings on any such reasons must be. 
That main fact is, that, between December, 1830, and Decem- 
ber, 1831, the bank extended its loans twenty millions of dol- 
lars ; and, as if to leave no doubt of the motive of this extraordi- 


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nary conduct, it is further alleged that it continued to add rapidly 
to its loans, until, in May, 1832, while its petition for renewal 
was pending, those loans amounted to seventy millions. The 
Secretary declares that this extraordinary increase of loans, made 
in so short a space of time, and on the eve of a contested elec- 
tion, in which the bank took an open and direct interest, demon- 
strates that it was using its money to obtain a hold upon the 
people of the country, in order to induce them, by the appre- 
hension of ruin, to vote against the candidate whom it desired 
to defeat This is strong assertion ; but, so far as the committee 
perceive, it is assertion merely. It is but the Secretary's own 
inference from facts, from which very facts his predecessors in 
office have drawn no such conclusions. This great extension of 
the loans, be it remembered, took place in 1831. Why was it 
not then complained of? How shquld it have escaped the vigi- 
lance of the Secretary of that day, at the time it took place ? 
And if it did not escape his vigilance, why did he not remove 
the deposits ? So, also, as to the amount of loans in May, 1832. 
That amount was perfectly well known at the time ; and if it 
proved any offence, why was not the punishment inflicted then ? 
How should all other Secretaries have slept over this great mis- 

It might further be well asked. What evidence is there of the 
existence of any such motive as is imputed to the bank, in this 
extension of its loans ? There is no evidence, but the mere fact 
itself of the extension ; and it cannot be denied, that other and 
very different reasons for the extension may have existed; so 
that the charge is proved no otherwise than by inferring a bad 
motive from an act lawful in itself, and for which good reasons 
may have existed. 

Nor is it either acknowledged, nor, so far as the committee 
know, proved, that the bank took an open and direct interest, as 
a corporation, in the election referred to. The bank, no doubt, 
was much interested in certain accusations which had been 
brought against it, and which became subjects of public discus- 
sion during the pendency of that election. It had been charged 
wit-1 great misconduct, and gross violation of its charter. These 
accusations must, undoubtedly, have called on the durectors for 
answer. If made before Congress, they were to answer before 
Congress ; if made judicially, they were to answer in the courts ; 


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if made in an official and formal manner, and in that manner 
submitted to the judgment of the country, the directors were 
bound to meet them before that country, by every fair use of 
fact and argument, not only for the purpose of defending them- 
selves as directors, but for the higher purpose of maintaining the 
credit of the bank, and protecting the property intrusted to 
their care. If, in thus defending the bank before the commu- 
nity, the directors carried their measures beyond this fair object 
of defence, or if they resorted to dishonorable or indecorous 
modes of discussion ; if they sought rather to inflame than to 
reason ; if they substituted personal crimination for argument ; 
if even they met invective and violence with corresponding in- 
vective and violence, — they foUowed bad examples, and are 
not to be justified. But of their right to defend themselves be- 
fore the public against grave charges brought against them, and 
ui^ed before the public, the committee entertain no doubt; and 
they are equally clear in opinion, that the Secretary of the 
Treasury is not constituted the judge of the mode of exercising 
this right, and cannot justly remove the deposits merely because 
the conduct of the bank, in this particular, has not happened to 
conform to his wishes. 

The committee, therefore, consider this last reason of the Sec- 
retary equally insufficient with the rest ; and they regard it as 
the most objectionable of aU in its principle, inasmuch as it 
proceeds on grounds which, if admitted, would leave a very high 
official duty to be exercised from considerations connected with 
the political feelings and party contests of every day, with no 
guide but the individual opinion of the officer who is to per- 
form the act, an opinion which, it is possible, may itself be no 
less tinctured with political motive and feeling than the conduct 
which it would reprehend. If an unlimited power be conceded 
to the Secretary to inflict penalties on the bank for supposed po- 
litical motives, in acts legal in themselves, where is the security 
that the judge may not be found acting under the same impulses 
which he imputes to the party accused ? 

The committee entertain no doubt that the immediate cause 
of the existing public distress is to be found in the removal of 
the public deposits, and in the manner in which that removal 
has been made. No other adequate cause has been suggested ; 
and those who justify the removal do not so much deny this 


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to have been the cause, as insist that it was not necessary that 
any such effect should have followed from it In other words, 
they argue that, notwithstanding the removal, the bank still pos- 
sessed the power, if it had chosen to exercise it, of warding off 
the blow which has fallen on the country, or at least of miti- 
gating its severity. 

Nothing could have been rationally expected but that the bank, 
deprived of the deposits, and denounced by the executive gov- 
ernment, would feel itself called on to take just care of its own 
interest and its own credit Of the means necessary to the at- 
tainment of these ends, the directors alone were judges, and the 
committee have no evidence before them to show that they 
have not exercised their judgment fairly, and with a real solici- 
tude to accommodate the commercial community, in the altered 
state of things, as far as has been practicable, consistently with 
the security of the institution, which it is equally their duty to 
the public and the stockholders to maintain. They are certainly 
under every obligation of duty, in the present distressed state 
of the country, to do every thing for the public relief which is 
consistent with the safety of the bank, and with those consider- 
ations which the approaching expiration of its charter makes it 
important for the directors to regard. 

The removal itself, and the manner of effecting it, are causes 
entirely sufficient, in the judgment of the committee, to produce 
all the consequences which the country has experienced, and is 
experiencing ; and these consequences, they think, are to be re- 
ferred to those causes as their just origin. How could any other 
result have been expected ? The amount of the deposits was 
nine millions of dollars. On this amount in deposit there was 
sustained, no doubt, a discount of far greater magnitude. The 
withdrawal of this sum of nine millions from the bank necessa- 
rily compelled it to diminish its discounts to the full exteiii of 
that part which may be supposed to have been sustained by 
it It is to be remembered, too, that this was done at a mo- 
ment when business of every kind was pressed with great activ- 
ity, and all the means of the country fully employed. 

The withdrawal of so large an amount, at such a time, from 
hands actually holding and using it, could not but produce de- 
rangement and pressure, even if it had been immediately placed 
in other banks, and if no unfriendly feeling and no want of con- 


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fidence had attended the transaction. But it is quite obvious, 
that the operation to which the Secretary has resorted has been 
attended with both these additional and powerful causes of de- 
rangement It has created unfriendly feelings, and it has dimin- 
ished confidence. This change of the deposits is made on the 
strength of charges against the bank, of a very grave and aggra- 
vated nature ; such as, if true, would most seriously affect its 
credit for solvency and stability. It is proclaimed to the whole 
world as having converted itself into a political partisan, mis- 
applied its funds, neglected its highest duties, and entered 
on a career of electioneering against the government of the 

These serious charges necessarily put the bank on its de- 
fence ; and the extraordinary spectacle is exhibited of a warfare 
by the national government on the national bank, notwithstand- 
ing that the government is itself a great proprietor in the bank, 
and notwithstanding that the notes of the bank are the currency 
in which the revenues of the country are by law receivable. 
The true and natural relation between the government and the 
bank is altogether reversed. Instead of enjoying the confidence 
of the government, it is obliged to sustain its most serious offi- 
cial assaults, and to maintain itself against its denunciations. 
The banks selected by government as its agents are themselves 
thrown, perhaps unwillingly, into an attitude of jealousy and 
suspicion toward the Bank of the United States. They become 
cautious and fearful, therefore, in all their proceedings ; and thus 
those who should cooperate to relieve the public pressure are 
considering mainly their own safety. Fesurful of each other, 
and fearful of the government, they see the distress continue, 
with no power of beneficial interposition. 

It may be asked. Why are not these deposit banks able to 
maintain as large a circulation on the nine miUions of deposits 
as the Bank of the United States ? And will they not be thus 
able when the present panic shall have subsided ? The commit- 
tee think both these questions easily answered. 

The Bank of the United States heus a credit more general, it 
may be said more universal, than any State bank can possesa 
The credit of the Bank of the United States is equally solid, its 
bilb and notes received with equal confidence, for the purpose 
of circulation and remittance, in every quarter of the country. 


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No paper circulation, so far as the committee know, which ever 
appeared in the world, has approached nearer to the value and 
uniformity of a specie currency than the notes and bills of the 
Bank of the United States. To the State banks these notes 
and bills have performed the office of specie. All the State 
banks have discounted, upon the possession of them, with the 
same freedom and boldness as they would have done on an 
equal amount of the precious metals. The curtailment of their 
circulation, therefore, is not merely a withdrawal of the amount 
curtailed from the general mass of circulation ; it is removing, 
rather, to the amount curtailed, the basis of the general circula- 
tion ; and although the actual amount of notes and bills has not 
of late been much diminished, there is reason to suppose that 
the amount held by State banks has been greatly diminished. 

The removal of the deposits has operated directly on the 
amount of the circulating medium, at a moment when that 
amount could not bear any considerable reduction, suddenly 
made, without producing sensible effect It has diminished 
prices, and in some instances it has had this effect to a very 
material degree. It has operated on the internal exchanges, and 
has, most manifestly, been attended with very serious and heavy 
inconveniences in that important branch of the national interest. 
More.than all, it has acted on opinion ; it has disturbed the gen- 
eral confidence ; it has weakened the public faith in the sound- 
ness of the currency; and it has alarmed men for the security of 
property. As yet, we hardly know its effects on the credit of 
the country in Europe. Perhaps it is not easy to anticipate 
those effects ; but if causes which operate here should be found 
to have been efficient there also, a still greater degree of pressure 
and distress than has yet been felt may be expected. 

The committee, therefore, cannot but regard the removal of 
the deposits, on the whole, as a measure highly inexpedient and 
altogether unjustifiable. The public moneys were safe in the 
bank. This is admitted. All the duties of the bank connected 
with these public moneys were faithfully discharged. This, too, 
is admitted. The subject had been recently before the House 
of Representatives, and that house had made known its opinion 
against the removal by a very unequivocal vote. Another session 
of Congress was close at hand, when the whole matter would 
again come before it Under these circumstances, to make the 


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lemoval, with the certainty of creating so much alarm, and of 
producing so much positive evil and suffering, such derange- 
ment of the currency, such pressure and distress in all the 
branches of the business of private life, is an act which the com- 
mittee think the Senate is caUed on to disapprove. 

The reasons which have thus been stated apply to the whole 
proceedings of the Secretary in relation to the public deposits, 
and make it unnecessary to consider whether there be any differ- 
ence between his power over moneys already in the bank, and 
his power to suspend future deposits. The committee forbear, 
also, to consider the propriety of the measures adopted by the 
Secretary for the safe-keeping of the public moneys since their 
withdrawal from the bank. They forbear, too, from entering into 
any discussion at present of the course of legislation proper to 
be adopted by CJongress under the existing state of things. In 
this report, they have confined themselves to the consideration 
of the removal of the deposits, the reasons assigned for it, and 
its immediate consequences; and on these points they have 
formed the opinions which have now been expressed. 

They recommend to the Senate the adoption of the resolu- 
tion which has been referred to them. 


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Mr. President, — I rise, pursuant to notice, to ask leave to 
bring in a bill to continue for six years the act incorporating the 
subscribers to the Bank of the United States ; and I shall hope 
for that indulgence of the Senate which is usually granted on 
such occasions, if I accompany its introduction with some re- 
marks on the general state of the country, as well as on the 
nature of the measure proposed. If leave be granted, it is my 
purpose to move to refer the bill to the Committee on Finance, 
that it may take the usual course, and come up for the consider- 
ation of the Senate in due season. 

Mr. President, in the midst of ample means of national and 
individual happiness, we have, unexpectedly, fallen into severe 
distress. Our course has been suddenly arrested. The general 
pulse of life stands still, and the activity and industry of the 
country feel a pause. A vastly extended and beneficent com- 
merce is checked ; manufactures are suspended, with incalcula- 
ble injury to those concerned in them ; and the labors of agri- 
culture threatened with the loss of their usual reward. Our 
resources are, nevertheless, at the same time, abundant, and all 
external circumstances highly favorable and advantageous ; such 
as fairly promised us, not only a continuance of that degree of 
prosperity which we have actually enjoyed, but its rapid advance- 
ment to still higher stages. 

The condition of the country is, indeed, singular. It is like 
that of a strong man chained. In full health, with strength un- 
abated and all its faculties unimpaired, it is yet incapable of 

• A Speech delivered in the Senate, on the 18ih of March, 1834, on moving 
for leave to introduce a Bill to continue the Bank of the United States for Six 


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performing its accustomed action. Fetters and manacles are on 
all its limbs. If we could but unbind it, if we could break 
these iron chains, if we could once more set it free, it would in 
a moment resume its activity, and go on again in its rapid ca- 
reer. It is our duty, Sir, to relieve this restraint, to unshackle 
the industry of the people, and give play, once more, to their 
common action and their common energies. The evils, all the 
evils, which we now feel, and feel so acutely, result from politi- 
cal measures ; and by political measures, and political measures 
alone, can they be redressed. They have their origin in acts of 
government, and they must find their cure in other acts of gov- 

Only six months ago. Sir, the country presented an aspect, in 
regard to all its great interests, exceedingly satisfactory and grat- 
ifying. Our commerce was highly prosperous, and our manu- 
factures, for the present at least, flourishing. Agricultural prod- 
ucts commanded fair prices, and the general appearance of 
things exhibited more than a usual degree of activity. The 
year elapsing between the autumn of 1832 and that of 1833 
was a year of great prosperity. In the activity of commerce, it 
is possible enough that some degree of over-trading had taken 
place ; but there is nothing to show that great excess had been 
committed in that particular. In general, the state of things 
was one of real prosperity. The commerce of the country had 
reached, I think, to a greater extent than in any former year; 
the amount of the exports for 1833 being, according to the treas- 
ury estimate, no less than ninety millions of dollars, and that 
of the imports no less than one hundred and nine millions. The 
internal and coasting trade was in a still more flourishing con- 
dition. This branch of the national industry has grown into 
the very highest importance, affording a vast field for active 
usefulness, enriching all parts of the country by its mutual ex- 
changes of commodities, and furnishing profitable employment 
to great numbers of the people. It was carried on last year, 
both by sea and land, with great vigor; and the situation of 
the currency of the country gave it facilities such as never 
existed elsewhere, to such an extent The money circulation 
was fi^e, and the banks in good credit They were, doubtless, 
somewhat too economical in the use of specie, and sustained 
their credit on a basis not sufiiciently broad to be quite secure. 


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But no great degree of danger to the circulation was generally 

Such was our condition in September last ; and the change 
which has since taken place must strike all minds. How do we 
stand now, in respect to these great interests ? Let us look to 
our commerce, the main source of our revenue, as well as a 
source of wealth, and let us see how that is affected, or likely to 
be affected, by recent occurrences. I have stated the amount of 
exports and imports for the last year ; those for the present year 
cannot, of course, be yet estimated with accuracy ; but we are 
not without some means of forming an opinion upon this inter- 
esting point. I think it is evident that there must be a falling 
off in the imports, and consequently a falling off in the revenue. 
I shall be very glad to find myself mistaken in this opinion ; but 
it appears to me there is much reason to entertain it As one 
of the Committee on Finance, I have felt it my duty, of course, 
to look to the state of the treasury, and to form some opinion, 
if I could, of what may be its future condition. Its present 
state, as we learn from the Secretary's report, with his estimate 
of the receipts and expenditures of the year, is substantially as 
follows : — 

Estimated balance in the treasury, January 1, 1834, . $ 7,983,790 
But from this deduct the amount of appropriations already 
made, and which remain unsatisfied, which amount, the 
Secretary supposes, may yet be required for the objects for 
which it was appropriated, " 5,190,287 

Balance remaining in the treasury, unappropriated, . $ 2,793,503 

Estimated amount of receipts for 1834 : 

Customs, $ 15,000,000 

Land, 3,000,000 

Bank dividends and miscellaneous, . . 500,000 


Total of means for the use of 1834, .... $ 21,293,503 
Estimated expenditures for 1834, .... 23,501,994 

This statement would seem to threaten a deficit of more than 
two millions ; and this will doubtless be the result, should the 
appropriations for the year all be called for within the year ; but 
experience shows that this is not to be expected. What amount 


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of appropriations may remain uncalled for, however, is necessa- 
rily uncertain. Among the expenditures, it is to be observed, is 
included the sum of five millions, within a fraction, for the pay- 
ment of the balance of the public debt, which becomes ^^reirrir 
hursable " at the commencement of next year. The Secretary 
supposes, even without making any allowance for the effect of 
recent measures, that the receipts for 1835 will be still less than 
those for 1834; and that, unless the revenue should be more 
productive than is anticipated, it will be necessary, in two years 
firom this time, to retrace our steps, and to impose duties on 
articles which are now free, in order to meet the current expenses 
of the government If such were the prospects of the country 
in regard to revenue before the late measures had so much di* 
turbed its commerce, it cannot but be expected that, under the 
influence of that cause, there may be a very considerable defi- 
ciency, especially should the cause continue. It is not very 
easy to ascertain to what extent the importations of the year 
may fall short of previous importations, in consequence of the 
disturbed state of things; but I know the opinion is enter- 
tained among those who have the best means of forming a cor- 
rect judgment, that there may be a falling off in the receipts of 
the customs of from a quarter to a third of the amount antici- 
pated. Should this prove to be true, which there is certainly too 
much reason to fear, Congress may be called on, much earlier 
than within two years, to provide additional means of revenue. 

The diminution will be mainly felt in the last half of the 
year, it being generally understood that orders for fall impor- 
tations have been countermanded to a great extent It is not 
thought improbable, that the receipts of the year from customs, 
estimated at fifteen millions, will fall down to twelve. This, 
should it happen, would no otherwise disturb the intended 
course of things than as it would postpone the payment of the 
balance of the public debt; but this effect it is not unUkely to 
produce. On such subjects, however, no very sure anticipations 
can be founded, and therefore I speak with no positiveness. 
But it is my expectation that the receipts for the year will fall 
below the estimate, and probably to the extent I have men- 
tioned ; and that this effect will be produced by no other cause 
than the deranged state of things occasioned by the removal 
of the public moneys from the Bank of the United States. 

VOL. IV. 8 


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If such are the consequences of the measure on our foreign 
commerce, and on the revenue, its effect on the internal trade 
of the country is a thousand times more disastrous. Here it 
produces not only diminution, but stagnation ; and such a stag- 
nation as has caused a cessation of production. The industry 
of the country is arrested, and its useful labor suspended. Great 
activity prevailed in the manufacturing districts, under a san* 
guine expectation that the law of the last session would, for a 
time at least, insure success to that great interest But this new- 
measure has struck that interest with a sudden and deadly blow; 
It is now but little more than twelve months since the manu- 
facturing portion of the community was deeply alarmed by the 
pendency of a measure in the other house, known usually as 
Mr. Verplanck's bill. Throughout the Middle and the North- 
ern States, and wherever that interest existed, the apprehension 
of change in the policy of the country diminished the value of 
property, embarrassed all calculations for the future, and dis- 
turbed and deranged the course of private occupation and in- 
dustry. But how small was all that evil, compared with the 
effects produced by the Secretary of the Treasury, when he in- 
terfered with the public revenues ! 

I will not go over the long list of cases in which prosperous 
manufacturing establishments have been compelled to discon- 
tinue their operations under the pressure of the times. I will 
only advert to an instance or two, taken, without selection, from 
papers and letters before me. Let Paterson, in New Jersey, be 
one of these instances ; the condition of which interesting and 
afflicted town has been, indeed, repeatedly presented to the Sen- 
ate by the members from that State. The population of Pat- 
erson, I believe, is about ten thousand ; and it is known to be a 
population almost exclusively engaged in manufactures. In 
September last, 43,500 spindles were in operation in it Of 
these, 24,500 have stopped, and 5,000 others are expected to stop 
as soon as stock on ' hand is worked up. I am informed that 
the manufacturers at Paterson cannot prevail on their consignees 
in Philadelphia and New York to become responsible for them, 
even to the amount of one third the cost of producing the arti- 
cle. The means, therefore, of paying labor, and purchasing new 
stock, are completely cut off. 

We may see another instance, sufflciently appalling, in the 


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mannfacttires of New Hampshire. I understand that a cotton- 
mill at Dover, of six thousand spindles, has ceased operation, 
and another was io cease on the 15th of this month ; a mill with 
four thousand spindles at Newmarket, and another at Nashua 
of five thousand, have ceased also ; and a large woollen mill, at 
a place called the Great Falls, employing two or three hundred 
hands, has stopped with the rest These, Sir, are instances of 
the effect of the experiment upon our manufacturing interests. 
Accounts similar to these have reached us from New York, Con- 
necticut, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania. I 
need not enter into the particulars of these accounts. Their 
general character is like that of those which I mentioned from 
New Jersey and New Hampshire. 

It is often inquired, how this enormous amount of evil could 
spring from a cause so apparently inadequate to produce it 
Can it be possible, it is asked, that the Secretary has brought 
about all tins distress simply by removing a few millions of dol- 
lars from one bank into other banks ? Sir, nothing is more true, 
and nothing more easily accounted for. 

Every commercial country has one great representative, con- 
stantly passing and acting between all its citizens. This uni- 
versal representative is money, or credit, in some form, as its 
substitute. Without this agency nothing can be bought, and 
nothing can be sold ; capital has no income, and labor no re- 
ward. It is no more possible to maintain the ordinary business 
and intercourse between man and man without money and 
credit, than to maintain an intercourse between nations without 
ministers or public agents, or to maintain punctual correspond- 
ence by letter without the mail. And all the distress which the 
country now suffers arises solely from acts which have deranged 
the currency of the country and the credit of the commercial 
community. The country is as rich, in its general appearance, 
as it was before the experiment was begun ; that is to say, men 
have the same houses, lands, ships, and merchandise. But the 
value of these has fallen ; or, to speak more correctly, they have 
lost the power of being exchanged; and they have lost this 
power b^aiuse of the embarrassment which has befallen the 
general medium of exchange. 

Six months ago, a state of things existed highly prosperous 
and advantageous to the country, but liable to be injuriously 


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afTected by precisely such a cause as has now been put into op- 
eration upon it. Business was active, and carried to a great ex- 
tent. Commercial credit was expanded, and the circulation of 
money was large. This circulation being of paper, of course 
rested on credit ; and this credit was founded on banking capi- 
tal and bank deposits. The public revenues, from the time of 
their collection to the time of their disbursement, were in the 
bank and its branches, and, like other deposits, contributed to 
the means of discount Between the Bank of the United 
States and the State banks, there was a degree of watchful- 
ness, perhaps of rivalry; but there was no enmity, no hos- 
tility. All moved in their own proper spheres, harmoniously 
and in order. 

The Secretary disturbed this state of peace. He broke up all 
the harmony of the system. By suddenly withdrawing all the 
public moneys from the Bank of the United States, he forced 
that bank to an inunediate correspondent curtailment of its 
loans and discounts. It was obliged to strengthen itself; and 
the State banks, taking the alarm, were obliged to strengthen 
themselves also by similar measures; so that the amount of 
credit actually existing, and on which men were doing business, 
was all at once greatly diminished. Bank accommodations 
were withdrawn ; men could no longer fulfil their engagements 
by the customary means; property fell in value; thousands 
failed ; many thousands more maintained their individual credit 
by enormous sacrifices; and all, being alarmed for the future, as 
well as distressed for the present, forbore from new transactions 
and new engagements. Finding enough to do to stand still, 
they do not attempt to go forward. This deprives the industri- 
ous and laboring classes of their occupations, and brings want 
and misery to their doors. This, Sir, is a short recital of cause 
and effect. This is the history of the first six months of the 
** experiment" 

Mr. President, the recent measures of the Secretary, and the 
opinions which are said to be avowed by those who approve 
and support them, threaten a wild and ruthless attack on the 
commercial credit of the country, that most delicate and at 
the same time most important agent of general prosperity. 
Commercial credit is the creation of modern times, and belongs, 
in its highest perfection, only to the most enlightened and best 


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governed nations. In the primitive ages of commerce, article is 
exchanged for article, without the use of money or credit. This 
is simple barter. But in its progress, a symbol of property, a 
common measure of value, is introduced, to facilitate the ex- 
changes of property ; and this may be iron, or any other article 
fixed by law or by consent, but has generally been gold and sil- 
ver. This, certainly, is a great advance beyond simple barter, but 
no greater than has been gained, in modern times, by proceed- 
ing from the mere use of money to the use of credit Credit is 
the vital air of the system of modern commerce. It has done 
more, a thousand times, to enrich nations, than all the mines of 
all the world. It has excited labor, stimulated manufactures, 
pushed commerce over every sea, and brought every nation, 
every kingdom, and every small tribe, among the races of men, 
to be known to all the rest It has raised armies, equipped 
navies, and, triumphing over the gross power of mere numbers, 
it has established national superiority on the foundation of intel- 
ligence, wealth, and well-directed industry. Credit is to money 
what money is to articles of merchandise. As hard money rep- 
resents property, so credit represents hard money ; and it is ca- 
pable of supplying the place of money so completely, that there 
are writers of distinction, especially of the Scotch school, who 
insist that no hard money is necessary for the interests of com- 
merce. I am not of that opinion. I do not think any govern- 
ment can maintain an exclusive paper system, without running 
to excess, and thereby causing depreciation. 

I hold the immediate convertibility of bank-notes into specie to 
be an indispensable security for their retaining their value ; but, 
consistently wath this security, and, indeed, founded upon it, 
credit becomes the great agent of exchange. It is allowed that 
it increases consumption by anticipating products ; and that it 
supplies present wants out of future means. As it circulates 
commodities without the actual use of gold and silver, it not 
only saves much by doing away with the constant transporta- 
tion of the precious metals from place to place, but accomplishes 
exchanges with a degree of despatch and punctuality not other- 
wise to be attained. All bills of exchange, all notes running 
upon time, as well as the paper circulation of the banks, belong 
to the system of commercial credit They are parts of one great 
whole. And, Sir, unless we are to reject the lights of expe* 


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rience, and to repudiate the benefits which other nations enjoy, 
and which we ourselves have hitherto enjoyed, we should pro- 
tect this system with unceasing watchfulness, taking care, on 
the one hand, to give it full and fair play, and on the other, to 
guard it against dangerous excess. We shall show ourselves 
unskilful and unfaithful statesmen if we do not keep clear of 
extremes on both sides. 

It is very true that commercial credit, and the system of bank- 
ing, as a part of it, furnish a substitute for capital. It is very 
true that this system enables men to do business, to some extent, 
on borrowed capital ; and those who wish to ruin all who make 
use of borrowed capital act wisely to that end by decrying it 

This commercial credit. Sir, depends on wise laws, steadily 
administered. Indeed, the best governed countries are always 
the richest With good political systems, natural disadvantages 
and the competition of all the world may be defied. With- 
out such systems, climate, soil, position, and every thing else, 
may favor the progress of wealth, and yet nations be poor. 
What but bad laws and bad government have retarded the 
progress of commerce, credit, and wealth in the peninsula of 
Spain and Portugal, a part of Europe distinguished for its natu- 
ral advantages, and especially suited by its position for an ex- 
tensive commerce, with the sea on three sides of it, and as many 
good harbors as all the rest of Europe ? The whole history of 
commerce shows that it flourishes or fades just in proportion as 
property, credit, and the fruits of labor are protected by free and 
just political systems. Credit cannot exist under arbitrary and 
rapacious governments, and commerce cannot exist without 
credit Tripoli and Tunis and Algiers are coimtries, above all 
others, in which hard money is indispensable; because, under 
such governments, nothing is valuable which cannot be secreted 
and hoarded. As government rises in the scale of intelligence 
and liberty, from these barbarous despotisms to the highest 
rank of free states, its progress is marked, at every step, by a 
higher degree of security and of credit This undeniable truth 
should make well-informed men ashamed to cry out against 
banks and banking, as being aristocratical, oppressive to the 
poor, or partaking of the character of dangerous monopoly. 
Banks are a part of the great system of commercial credit, and 
Uave done much, under the influence of good government, to aid 


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and elevate that credit What is their history ? Where do we 
first find them ? Do they make their first appearance in des- 
potic governments, and show themselves as inventions of power 
to oppress the people ? The first bank was that of Venice ; the 
second, that of Genoa. From the example of these republics, 
they were next established in Holland and the free city of Ham- 
hmg. England followed these examples, but not until she had 
been delivered fi-om the tyranny of the Stuarts by the revolution 
of 1688. It was William the Deliverer, and not William the Con- 
queror, that established the Bank of England. Who supposes 
that a Bank of England could have existed in the times of Emp- 
son and Dudley ? Who supposes that it could have lived under 
those ministers of Charles the Second who shut up the excheq- 
uer, or that its vaults could have been secure against the arbi- 
trary power of the brother and successor of that monarch ? 

The history of banks belongs to the history of commerce and 
the general history of liberty. It belongs to the history of those 
causes which, in a long course of years, raised the middle and 
lower orders of society to a state of intelligence and property, in 
spite of the iron sway of the feudal system. In what instance 
have they endangered liberty or overcome the laws ? Their very 
existence, on the contrary, depends on the security and the rule 
both of liberty and law. Why, Sir, have we not been taught, in 
our earliest reading, that to the birth of a commercial spirit, to 
associations for trade, to the guilds and companies formed in the 
towns, we are to look for the first emergence of liberty from the 
darkness of the Middle Ages ; for the first blush of that morn- 
ing, which has grown brighter and brighter till the perfect day 
has come ? And it is just as reasonable to say that bills of ex- 
change are dangerous to liberty, that promisssory notes are dan- 
gerous to liberty, that the power of regulating the coin is dan- 
gerous to liberty, as that credit, and banking, as a part of credit, 
are dangerous to liberty. 

Sir, I hardly know a writer on these subjects who has not 
selected the United States as an eminent and striking instance 
to show the advantages of well-established credit, and the bene- 
fit of its expansion, to a degree not incompatible with safety, by 
a paper circulation. Or, if they do not mention the United 
States, they describe just such a country ; that is to say, a new 
and fiast-growing country. Hitherto, it must be confessed, our 


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success has been great. With some breaks and intervals, our 
progress has been rapid, because our system has been good. 
We have preserved and fostered credit, till all have become in- 
terested in its further continuance and preservation. It has run 
deep and wide into our whole system of social life. Every man 
feels the vibjration, when a blow is struck upon it. And this is 
the reason why nobody has escaped the influence of the Sec- 
retary's recent measure. While credit is delicate, sensitive, 
easily wounded, and more easily alarmed, it is also infinitely 
ramified, diversified, extending everywhere, and touching every 

There never was a moment in which so many individuals 
felt their own private interest to be directly affected by what has 
been done, and what is to be done. There^ never was a moment, 
therefore, in which so many straining eyes were turned towards 
Congress. It is felt, by every one, that this is a case in which 
the acts of the government come directly home to him, and pro- 
duce either good or evil, every hour, upon his personal and pri- 
vate condition. And how is the public expectation met ? How 
is this intense, this agonized expectation answered? I am 
grieved to say, I am ashamed to say, it is answered by decla- 
mation against the bank as a monster, by loud cries against a 
moneyed aristocracy, by pretended zeal for a hard-money sys- 
tem, and by professions of favor and regard to the poor. 

The poor! We are waging war for the benefit of the poor! 
We slay that monster, the bank, that we may defeat the unjust 
purposes of the rich, and elevate and protect the poor! And 
what is the effect of all this ? What happens to the poor, and 
all the middling classes, in consequence of this warfare ? Where 
are they ? Are they well fed, well clothed, well employed, inde- 
pendent, happy, and grateful ? They are all at the feet of the 
capitalists; they are in the jaws of usury. They are at the mer- 
cy of those who, if there be hearts of stone in human bosoms, 
have such hearts in their breasts. Look to the rates of interest, 
mounting to twenty, thirty, fifty per cent. Sir, this measure of 
government has transferred millions upon millions of hard-earned 
property, in the form of extra interest, from the industrious 
classes to the capitalists, from the poor to the rich. And this 
is called putting down a moneyed aristocracy! Sir, there are 
thousands of families who have diminished, not their luxuries, 


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not their amusements, but their meat and their bread, that they 
might be able to save their credit by paying enormous interest 
And there are other thousands, who, having lost their employ- 
ment, have lost every thing, and who yet hear, amidst the bitter- 
ness of their anguish, that the great motive' of government is 
kindness to the poor ! 

* It is difficult. Sir, to restrain one's indignation, when to so 
much keen distress there is added so much which has the ap- 
pearance of mere mockery. Sir, let the system of the adminis- 
tration go on, and we shall soon not know our country. We 
shall see a new America, On the map, where these United 
States have stood, we shall behold a country that will be strange 
to us. We shall see a class of idle rich, and a class of idle poor ; 
the former a handful, the latter a host We shall no longer be- 
hold a community of men, with spirits all active and stirring, 
contributing, all of them, to the public welfare, while they par- 
take in it, pushing on their fortunes, and bettering their own 
condition, and helping to swell, at the same time, the cup of the 
general prosperity to overflowing. We shall see no more of that 
credit which reaches out its hand to honest enterprise ; of that 
certainty of reward, which cheers on labor to the utmost stretch 
of its sinews; of that personal and individual independence, 
which enables every man to say that no man is his master. 
Sir, I will not look on the picture. I will not imagine what 
spectacle will be exhibited, when this country not only halts in 
her onward march, but recedes ; when she tracks back in the 
long and rapid strides of her forward movement ; when she sets 
herself to undo all that she has done ; when she renounces the 
good she has attained ; when she obstructs credit, destroys en- 
terprise, arrests commerce, and crushes manufactures. 

Air. President, I confess I find it difficult to respect the intel- 
ligence, and at the same time the motives, of those who alarm 
the people with the cry of danger to their liberties from the bank. 
Do they see the same danger from other banks ? I think not 
With them, bank capital and bank credit are dangerous or harm- 
less, according to circumstances. It is a lion, whose conduct 
and character appear to depend on its keeper. Under the con- 
trol of this government, it is fearful and dangerous ; but under 
State authority, it "roars as gently as a sucking dove ; it roars 
as it were any nightingale." 


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Both the members from New York have labored to persuade 
us that the public liberties of this whole country are in immi- 
nent danger from a bank with thirty-five millions. And yet, 
Sir, they feel no fears for the liberty of the people of their own 
State, with a banking capital of twenty-three millions, and a 
proposed addition of ten millions, all lodged in banks associated 
under the Safety Fund system, and all under the supervision of 
a political board, appointed by the government In all this they 
see no danger to liberty ; but their anxiety is intense lest a bank 
of thirty-five millions should enslave all the people of the twenty- 
four States! 

Again, Sir, from the time of the veto message to the present 
moment, the country has been assailed with the cry of danger 
from the small portion of foreign capital which is in the stock 
of the bank. Republicanism, it is said, cannot exist in a country 
where there is a bank with dukes and marquesses and lords 
among its stockholders. And yet, Sir, have we not seen the 
executive approving of an enormous loan by the cities of this 
District from Dutch capitalists, and sanctioning a law binding 
down all their citizens, and all their property, to pay the interest 
of this foreign debt, by provisions vastly more strict and severe 
than those which compel the payment of taxes to their own 
government? And is not Pennsylvania now deliberating wheth- 
er she will not send an agent to Europe to borrow money to 
meet that very exigency which the present state of things cre- 
ates ? And is not the new bank, too, proposed to be established 
in New York, to be created on foreign capital ? 

Sir, are arguments of this nature altogether creditable to the 
country? Do they exhibit us in a respectable light abroad? 
Do intelligent observers, elsewhere, behold our public men ad- 
dressing themselves to the people in fair discussion on the real 
merits of public questions ; or may they not think, rather, that 
they see them attempting to carry favorite measures of party by 
false cries of danger to liberty ? 

The truth is, that banks, everywhere, and especially with us, 
are made for the borrowers. They are made for the good of the 
many, and not for the good of the few. Even their ownership, 
to a very great extent, is in the hands of men of moderate prop- 
erty. I have read a very able speech, by Mr. Gushing, in the leg- 
islature of Massachusetts, in which he states that he has taken 


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pains to examine the list of stockholders in several banks in his 
neighborhood, and he finds a major part of the stock (I think 
more than two thirds) in the hands of charitable societies, guar- 
dians, widows, and traders with small capital. And, Sir, at this 
moment the stockholders of the Bank of the United States have 
infinitely less interest as stockholders in the questions which we 
are discussing, than they have as citizens of the country. The 
stock is constantly in the market, and daily changing hands; and 
any one who wishes for it may always buy it It is not perma- 
nently vested in any hands ; and this of itself shows that the 
corporation is, in its nature, incapable of prosecuting any pur- 
pose hostile to the public liberties. 

Indeed, Sir, I think it time, high time, that there should be 
a pause in this outcry against the bank, as dangerous from its 
political power, or as favoring wealth in its accumulation rather 
than in its distribution. Prejudice excited against the bank is a 
much more powerful engine for political purposes than the bank 
itself. It is more than a match for ten banks. Not long ago, a 
member, not now with us, declared on this floor, that in the 
coarse of his political struggles, some years ago, he felt sure of 
triumph the moment an impression was made that the bank 
had taken part against him ; and that, if he were again to be a 
candidate, he should wish for no surer pledge of success. His 
own experience, thus candidly stated, seems not to have been 
lost on others. I full well know. Sir, the power of such preju- 
dices. I know how easily they may be excited, and how potent 
is their agency. Efforts to excite them, and calculations on 
their efiicacy when excited, have sometimes succeeded, and 
must be expected sometimes to succeed, in popular govern- 
ments. They are among the means by which little men occa- 
sionally become great But they are not among the means by 
which lasting character is to be attained, any more than they 
are among the means by which substantial and important pub- 
lic service is to be rendered to the country. 

I now proceed, Mr. President, to the state of opinion existing, 
both in and out of Congress, as to the remedy proper for the 
present condition of things. 

There are three classes of personSi holding on this subject dif- 
ferent opinions : -— 

L Those who believe a bank to be constitutional and neces- 


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sary, and, seeing no danger from the present institution, would 
prefer, if they could follow their own choice, to recharter the 
bank, for the usual period, with the usual powers; modified, 
however, in any manner that the experience of the past may 
suggest : 

2. There are those who think a bank useful, but who do not 
believe Congress has the power to incorporate a bank under 
any form. 

3. There are those who admit the power of Congress to make 
a bank, and are in favor of some bank, but oppose the continu- 
ance of the bank now existing. 

It is obvious. Sir, that, if any relief come to the country, it 
must proceed from some degree of union between these classes, 
or some of them ; and the question is. Is there any common 
ground on which they can meet ? Is there any expedient on 
which they will consent to lay hold to save the country ? Or 
will they leave it a prey to their differences of opinion ? 

Now, Sir, among those who oppose those measures of govern- 
ment which have brought the present distress on the country, a 
great majority would prefer a continuance of the charter of the 
present bank for the usual term. This would be their wish, and 
I am one of them. We passed a bill for such a recharter 
through both houses, two years ago, but it was negatived by the 
President I would prefer a bank of fifteen or twenty years' 
duration ; either this or a new one ; for I do not act from a re- 
gard to the pecuniary interest of the stockholders in the present 
bank, although I would not consent to do them any injustice. 
But, Sir, I see no chance of at present renewing this charter for 
a long period. It appears to me that the minds of members of 
Congress are in a state to render this hopeless. I give up, there- 
fore, my own preference ; I sacrifice my opinions to that neces- 
sity which I feel to be imposed upon me by the condition of the 
country. I go for relief, for efficient relief, and for immediate 
relief. I feel this to be demanded of me by every dictate of duty 
and patriotism, and by the loud voice of the country. I obey 
that voice, and cheerfully yield every thing to the accomplish- 
ment of the object. When I ask others to make sacrifices, I 
begin with making them myself. Preferring a permanent meas- 
ure, I yet agree to a temporary measure. Desirous of settling 
the question for a length of years, I yet consent to leave it open, 


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in the hope of obtaining present relief and security ; and I ear- 
nestly entreat all those with whom I have generally concurred 
in opinion, to concur in a temporary measure. If we cannot do 
all we would, let us do what we can. Let us make a proposU 
iion which no reasonable man who really desires to relieve the 
country can object to. That is my object, and with that single 
object have I prepared this bill. 

And now, Sir, I will say a word to the gentlemen who have 
confstitutional scruples about all banks. They find a bank 
actually existing. They find that this bank, or another like it, 
has existed through more than three fourths of the whole period 
of our government They find Congress to have asserted the 
constitutional power to establish a bank, over and over again ; 
they find all the judicial tribunals to have sanctioned the power, 
and four fifths of the State legislatures, and as great a propor- 
tion of the people, to have confirmed it Now, Sir, as sensible 
and candid men, they cannot say that it is a clear case against 
the power. They must admit there is some reason for sup- 
posing the power to exist The most they can say is, that the 
bank stands on a doubtful authority. Now, suppose that to be 
Irue. Let it be admitted that the bank stands on a doubtful 
title. Does it follow that they must suddenly destroy it? Will 
not they give it time to wind up its affairs, without producing 
excessive injury to the people ? Shall it be brought to a sudden 
termination, at whatever cost, at whatever ruin to the public 
happiness ? Besides, Sir, if the bank be unconstitutional, what 
is that state of things into which the country must fall when the 
hank charter expires ? Can any thing be more unconstitutional 
than that state of things ? 

Again, Sir, I must say, that some of those States now most 
opposed to the bank on constitutional grounds helped to make 
it Look to New York ; look even to Virginia : these States 
had much more hand in creating this bank than Massachusetts. 
In 1816, there was no majority of the members from Virginia in 
the two houses of Congress opposed to the bank on constitu- 
tional grounds. Virginia actually gave much more support to 
it than Massachusetts, and a Virginia President approved the 
bitt. May not a degree of forbearance, then, be justly expected, 
even though the opinion should now be that the bank stands on 
a doubtful right? Sir, it is enough to state these suggestions, 

VOL. IV. 9 


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without arguing them at length, to candid and honorable 

I do not, on this occasion, argue the question of the power of 
Congress to make a bank, but I cannot but recur to the strong 
view presented of the subject the other day by the honorable 
member from Vermont near me.* Congress, said he, having, 
by express grant, the power to regulate commerce between the 
several States, if money, if currency, silver or paper, be a thing 
essential to commerce, how can they regulate the commerce 
without regulating the currency of the country ? And if the 
Constitution of the United States does allow the States to cre- 
ate banks with power to issue paper, and Congress still may not 
control or regulate that paper, either by a bank of its own or 
any other just means, how can it be said that Congress has 
power to regulate commerce between the States? These are 
questions which I cannot answer. 

In the next place. Sir, as I have said, there are those who are 
for a new bank. 

Sir, gentlemen may well be for a new bank ; but they cannot 
be for that and for nothing else, if they really intend to relieve 
the country. No new bank can be established before 1836. 
This we all know. And what are we to do in the mean time ? 
I am not against a new bank, when the proper time comes to 
make it, if that shall be the general voice of the country ; but it 
is idle to talk of a new bank now. Those cannot feel the exi- 
gency of the moment, they do not realize the pressure of the 
times, who talk of a new bank and nothing but a new bank. 
Let them bring forward a project for a new bank whenever they 
please ; but let us, in the mean time, not suffer the present dis- 
tress of the country to go on and to increase for the want of a 
more immediate measure. I do not object to take the question 
of a new bank into consideration at any time, either in this Con- 
gress or the next ; but I do object to holding out any hope to 
the country of immediate relief from such a measure, because 
we know it cannot afford such relief. We are in an emergency. 
Great interests are in danger of being overwhelmed ; we need 
some plank, something to lay hold on, to buoy us up and keep 
our heads above water, until more effectual and permanent pro- 
vision for our safety can be made. 

• Mr. Prentiss. 


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I will now, Sir, state the general substance of the bill which 
I ask leave to introduce. 

The first section proposes to continue the present bank for six 
years, but with this provision ; namely, that so much of the 
present charter as gives the bank an exclusive right shall not be 
continued, but that Congress may make any other bank, if it 
see fit, to come into existence at any time after 1836. 

This is the great feature of the bill. It continues the bank 
for a short period, and takes away the exclusive right. Congress 
is thus left at perfect liberty to make another bank whenever it 
chooses. When the present agitation shall have subsided, when 
a day of calm consideration comes, and the people have had 
time for deliberation, then Congress may make a permanent pro- 
vision, satisfactory to itself and to the country. Can any thing 
be more reasonable than this ? Can the bitterest enemy of the 
present bank refuse to give it time to wind up its affairs without 
distress to the people ? Can the most ardent advocate of a new 
bank refuse, meantime, to allow the country to relieve itself by 
' the use of the present, until a new one shall be established? 

Sir, I am not dealing in plausibilities only. I mean to leave 
the whole question between this bank and a new one fairly 
open. I mean to give to neither any manner of advantage. K 
Congress establish a new bank, it may easily go into operation 
while the present is gradually retiring fi-om operation, and the 
business of the country will feel no violent shock. I mean to 
give the present bank no claim to a- renewal ; but, on the con- 
trary, the only new power conferred on it by this bill is a power 
to enable it to wind up its concerns. 

As to the time, I think six years not too long. If we were 
now certain that a new bank would come into existence in 
1836, I think it would be convenient for all parties that this 
bank should have six years to run. The new bank would hardly 
get into full operation under a year or two, and time is abso- 
lutely necessary to enable this bank gradually to collect its debts. 
A hastened collection must distress the people. With an ex- 
isting debt of fifty-five millions, and pressed and solicited on all 
sides still further to extend its loans, in order to relieve the 
country, all must see that the affairs of the bank cannot be 
closed without intolerable pressure on the community, unless 
time be given for that purpose. But if six years be thought too 


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long, I will consent to five, or to four. My own opinion is, that 
six years are not too long. 

The second section provides, that the public moneys becom- 
ing due after the 1st of July shall be deposited in the bank and 
its branches as heretofore, subject, however, at any time after 
this act shall be accepted^ to be removed by order of Congress, 
If Congress shall establish a new bank, it will of course re- 
move the deposits into it The effect of this provision will be 
to give to Congress, at all times, what rightfully belongs to it, 
a full control over the public purse. It separates that purse from 
the sword, and reestablishes the just authority of the legisla- 

Then comes the section by which the bank is to pay to the 
treasury $ 200,000 a year, for the six years, as compensation 
for the benefits of this continuance of its charter. This pro- 
vision is adopted from the bill of 1832. For one, I should 
have been willing that a fixed percentage should have been 
paid, instead of this bonus^ to be divided among the States, ac- 
cording to numbers; but others objected to this, and I have 
sought to avoid all new causes of difference. 

The next section authorizes Congress to restrain the bank 
from issuing notes of less denomination than twenty dollars, if 
it shall see fit so to do, any time after March, 1836. This, too, 
is borrowed from the bill of 1832, and its object was fully dis* 
cussed on that occasion. That object is to get rid of the circu- 
lation of all notes under five dollars, and, by so doing, to extend 
the specie basis of our circulation. When the States shall 
direct their own banks to issue no notes less than five dol- 
lars, then it is proposed that Congress shall direct the Bank 
of the United States to issue no notes below twenty dollars. 
The state of our currency will then be, as I explained the 
other day, that, up to five dollars, it will be silver and gold ; 
above five dollars, it may be silver and gold, and notes of State 
banks ; and above twenty dollars, silver and gold, and notes of 
State banks, and notes of the Bank of the United States. This 
greater use of silver and gold for common purposes and small 
payments, I have thought to be a desirable object, as I have 
often before said. 

The next section looks to the winding up of the affairs of the 
bank ; and it provides that, at any time within the last three 


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years of its continnance, its directors may divide among the 
stockholders any portion of the capital which they may have 
withdrawn from active operation. The remaining sections are 
only such as are formed and necessary ; one continues the acts 
of Congress connected with the bank, such as those providing 
for forging its notes, and the other requires the acceptance of 
this bill by the bank in order to give it validity and effect 

Such, Mr. President, are the provisions of this bill. They are 
few and simple. 

1. The bank is to be continued for six years. 

2. The deposits are to be restored after the 1st of July. 

3. Congress is to be at perfect liberty to create any new bank, 
at any time after March, 1836. 

4. The directors, in order to wind up their concerns, may, 
ifaree years before the six years expire, begin to divide the capi- 
tal among the stockholders. 

Mr. President, this is the measure which I propose; and it 
is my settled belief, that, if we cannot carry this, we can carry 

I have thus. Sir, stated my opinions, and discharged my duty. 
I see the country laboring and struggling and panting under an 
enormous political evil. I propose a remedy which I am sure 
win produce relief, if it be adopted, and which seems to me 
most likely to obtain support And now. Sir, I put it to every 
member of Congress, how he can resist this measure, unless by 
proposing another and a better. Who, among the agents and 
servants of the people assembled in these houses, is prepared, in 
the present distressed state of the country, to say, that he will 
oppose every thing, and propose nothing? For one, Sir, I can 
only say, that I have been driven to this proposition by an irre* 
sistible impulse of obligation to the country. If I had been 
suddenly called to my great reckoning in another world, I should 
have felt that one duty was neglected, if I had had no measure 
to recommend, no expedient to propose, no hope to hold out to 
this suffering community. 

As to the success of this bill. Sir, or any other, I have only to 
repeat what I have so often said, that every thing rests with the 
people themselves. In the distracted state of the public coun- 
sels, any measure of relief can only be obtained by the decisive 
demand of the public will. 


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By an exercise of executive power, which I believe to be ille- 
gal, and which all must see to have been injurious, by an unre- 
lenting adherence to the measure which has thus been adopted, 
in spite of all consequences, and by the force of those motives 
which influence men to support the measure, though they en- 
tirely disapprove it, the country is brought to a condition such as 
it never before witnessed, and which it cannot long bear. But 
it is not a condition for despair. Nothing will ruin the country, 
if the people themselves will undertake its safety ; and nothing 
can save it, if they leave that safety in any hands but their own. 

Would to God, Sir, that I could draw around me all these 
twelve millions of people ! Would to God that I could speak 
audibly to every independent elector in the whole land ! I would 
not say to them, vainly and arrogantly, that their safety and hap- 
piness require the adoption of any measure recommended by 
me. But I would say to them, with the sincerest conviction 
that ever animated man's heart, that their safety and happiness 
do require their own prompt and patriotic attention to the pub- 
lic concerns, their own honest devotion to the welfare of the 
state. I would say to them, that neither this measure, nor any 
measure, can be adopted, except by the cogent and persisting 
action of popular opinion. I would say to them, that the public 
revenues cannot be restored to their accustomed custody, that 
they cannot be again placed under the control of Congress, that 
the violation of law cannot be redressed, but by manifestations, 
not to be mistaken, of public sentiment I would say to them, 
that the Constitution and the laws, their own rights and their 
own happiness, all depend on themselves ; and if they esteem 
these of any value, if they were not too dearly bought by the 
blood of their fathers, if they be an inheritance fit to be trans- 
mitted to their posterity, I would beseech them, I would beseech 
them, to come now to their salvation. 


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Mr. President, — I feel the magnitude of this question. 
We are coming to a vote which cannot fail to produce impor- 
tant effects on the character of the Senate and the character of 
the government. 

Unhappily, Sir, the Senate finds itself involved in a contro- 
versy with the President of the United States ; a man who has 
rendered most distinguished services to his country, who has 
hitherto possessed a degree of popular favor perhaps never ex- 
ceeded, and whose honesty of motive and integrity of purpose 
are still admitted by those who maintain that his administration 
has fallen into lamentable errors. 

On some of the interesting questions in regard to which the 
President and Senate hold opposite opinions, the more popular 
branch of the legislature concurs with the executive. It is not 
to be concealed that the Senate is engaged against imposing 
odds. It can sustain itself only by its own prudence and the 
justice of its cause. It has no patronage by which to secure 
firiends ; it can raise up no advocates through the dispensation 
of favors, for it has no favors to dispense. Its very constitution, 
as a body whose members are elected for a long term, is capa- 
ble of being rendered obnoxious, and is daily made the subject 
of opprobrious remark. It is already denounced as independent 
of the people, and aristocratic. Nor is it, like the other house, 
powerful in its numbers ; not being, like that, so large as that 
its members come constantly in direct and extensive contact 
with the whole people. Under these disadvantages. Sir, whichf 

• A Speech delivered in the Senate of the United States, on the 7th of Mav« 
1834, on the President's Protest. 
See note to page 47. 


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we may be assured, will be pressed and urged to the utmost 
length, there is but one course for us. The Senate must stand 
on its rendered reasons. It must put forth the grounds of its 
proceedings, and it must then rely on the intelligence and patri- 
otism of the people to carry it through the contest 

As an individual member of the Senate, it gives me great pain 
to be engaged in such a conflict with the executive government. 
The occurrences of the last session are fresh in the recollection 
of all of us ; and having felt it to be my duty, at that time, to 
give my cordial support to highly important measures of the ad- 
ministration, I ardently hoped that nothing might occur to place 
me afterwards in an attitude of opposition. In all respects, 
and in every way, it would have been far more agreeable to me 
to find nothing in the measures of the executive government 
which I could not cheerfully support The present occasion of 
difference has not been sought or made by me. It is thrust upon 
me, in opposition to strong opinions and wishes, on my part not 
concealed. The interference with the public deposits dispelled 
all hope of continued concurrence with the administration, and 
was a measure so uncalled for, so unnecessary, and, in my judg- 
ment, so illegal and indefensible, that, with whatever reluctance 
it might be opposed by me, opposition was unavoidable. 

The paper before us has grown out of this interference. It is a 
paper which cannot be treated with indifference. The doctrines 
which it advances, the circumstances which have attended its 
transmission to the Senate, and the manner in which the Senate 
may now dispose of it, will form a memorable era in the history 
of the government We are either to enter it on our journals, 
concur in its sentiments, and submit to its rebuke, or we must 
answer it, with the respect due to the chief magistrate, but 
with such animadversion on its doctrines as they deserve, and 
with the firmness imposed upon us by our public duties. 

I shall proceed, then. Sir, to consider the circumstances which 
gave rise to this Protest ; to examine the principles which it at- 
tempts to establish ; and to compare those principles with the 
Constitution and the laws. 

On the 28th day of March, the Senate adopted a resolution 
declaring that, " in the late executive proceedings in relation to 
the public revenue, the President had assumed a power not coh- 
ferred by the Constitution and laws, but in derogation of both.'* 
In that resolution I concurred. 


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It is not a direct question, now again before us, whether ihe 
IVesident really bad assumed such illegal power; that point is 
decided, so far as the Senate ever can decide it But the Pro- 
test denies that, supposing the President to have assumed such 
illegal power, the Senate could properly pass the resolution ; cur, 
what is the same thing, it denies that the Senate could, in this 
way, express any opinion about it It denies that the Senate 
has any right, by resolution, in this or any other case, to express 
disapprobation of the President's conduct, let that conduct be 
what it may ; and this, one of the leading doctrines of the Pro- 
test, I propose to consider. But as I concurred in the resolu- 
tion of the 28th of March, and did not trouble the Senate, at 
that time, with any statement of my own reasons, I will avail 
myself of this opportunity to explain, shortly, what those reasons 

In the first place, then, I have to say, that I did not vote for 
the resolution on the mere ground of the removal of Mr. Dn- 
ane from the office of Secretary of the Treasury. Although I 
disapprove of the removal altogether, yet the power of removal 
docs exist in the President, according to the established con- 
straction of the Constitution ; and therefore, although in a par- 
ticalar case it may be abused, and, in my opinion, was abused in 
this case, yet its exercise cannot be justiy said to be an assump- 
tion or usurpation. We must all agree that Mr. Duane is out 
of office. He has, therefore, been removed by a power constitu- 
tionally competent to remove him, whatever may be thought 
of the exercise of that power under the circumstances of the 

If, then, the act of removing the Secretary be not the assxmip- 
tion of power which the resolution declares, in what is that 
assumption found? Before giving a precise answer to this 
inquiry, allow me to recur to some of the principal previous 

At the end of the last session of Congress, the public mon- 
eys of the United States were still in their proper place. That 
place was fixed by the law of the land, and no power of change 
was conferred on any other hmnan being than the Secretary 
of the Treasury. On him the power of change was conferred, 
to be exercised by himself, if emergency should arise, and to be 
exerdsed for reasons which he was bound to lay before Con- 


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gress. No other oflScer of the government had the slightest pre- 
tence of authority to lay his hand on these moneys for the pur- 
pose of changing the place of their custody. All the other heads 
of departments together could not touch them. The President 
could not touch them. The power of change was a trust con- 
fided to the discretion of the Secretary, and to his discretion 
alone. The President had no more authority to take upon him- 
self this duty, thus assigned expressly by law to the Secretary, 
than he had to make the annual report to Congress, or the an- 
nual commercial statements, or to perform any other service 
which the law specially requires of the Secretary. He might 
just as well sign the warrants for moneys, in the ordinary daily 
disbursements of government, instead of the Secretary. The 
statute had assigned the especial duty of removing the deposits, 
if removed at all, to the Secretary of the Treasury, and to him 
alone. The consideration of the propriety or necessity of re- 
moval must be the consideration of the Secretary ; the decision 
to remove, his decision ; and the act of removal, his act 

Now, Sir, on the 18th day of September last, a resolution was 
taken to remove these deposits from their legislative, that is to 
say, their legal custody. Whose resolution was this ? On the 
1st of October, they were removed. By whose power was this 
done ? The papers necessary to accomplish the removal (that 
is, the orders and drafts) are, it is true, signed by the Secretary. 
The President's name is not subscribed to them ; nor does the 
Secretary, in any of them, recite or declare that he does the 
act by direction of the President, or on the President's respon- 
sibility. In form, the whole proceeding is the proceeding of 
the Secretary, and, as such, had the legal effect The deposits 
were removed. But whose act was it, in truth and reality? 
Whose will accomplished it? On whose responsibility was it 
adopted ? 

These questions are all explicitly answered by the President 
himself, in the paper, under his own hand, read to the Cabinet 
on the 18th of September, and published by his authority. In 
this paper the President declares, in so many words, that he 
begs his Cabinet to consider the proposed measure as his 
own; that its responsibility has been assumed by him; and 
that he names the first day of October as a period proper for 
its execution. 


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Now, Sir, it is precisely this which I deem an assumption of 
power not conferred by the Constitution and laws. I think the 
law did not give this authority to the President, nor impose on 
him the responsibility of its exercise. It is evident that, in this 
removal, the Secretary was in reality nothing but the scribe ; he 
was the pen in the President's hand, and no more. Nothing 
depended on his discretion, his judgment, or his responsibility. 
The removal, indeed, has been admitted and defended in the 
Senate, as the direct act of the President himself. This, Sir, is 
what I call assumption of power. K the President had issued 
an order for the removal of the deposits in his own name, and 
under his own hand, it would have been an illegal order, and 
the bank would not have been at liberty to obey it For the 
same reason, if the Secretary's order had recited that it was 
issued by the President's direction, and on the President's au- 
Ihority, it would have shown on its face that it was illegal and 
invaUd. No one can doubt thai The act of removal, to be 
lawful, must be the bond fide act of the Secretary ; his judg- 
ment, the result of his deliberations, the volition of his mind. 
All are able to see the difference between the power to remove 
tiie Secretary from oflSce, and the power to control him, in all or 
any of his duties, while in office. The law charges the officer, 
whoever he may be, with the performance of certain duties. 
The President, with the consent of the Senate, appoints an in- 
dividual to be such officer ; and this individual he may remove, 
if he so please ; but, until removed, he is the officer, and remains 
charged with the duties of his station, duties which nobody else 
can perform, and for the neglect or violation of which he is 
liable to be impeached. 

The distinction is visible and broad between the power of 
removal and the power to control an officer not removed. The 
President, it is true, may terminate his political life ; but he can- 
not control his powers and functions, and act upon him as a 
mere machine, while he is allowed to live. The power of control 
and direction, nowhere given, certainly, by any express provision 
of the Constitution or laws, is derived, by those who maintain 
it, from the right of removal ; that is to say, it is a constructive 
power; it has no express warrant in the Constitution. A very 
important power, then, is raised by construction in the first 
place; and being thus raised, it becomes a fountain out of 


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which other important powers, raised also by oonsimction, are 
to be supplied. There is no little danger that such a mode of 
reasoning may be carried too far. It cannot be maintained that 
the power of direct control necessarily flows from the power of 
removal. Suppose it had been decided in 1789, when the ques* 
tion was debated, that the President does not possess the power 
of removal ; will it be contended, that, in that case, his right of 
interference with the acts and duties of executive officers would 
be less than it now is ? The reason of the thing would seem to 
be the other way. If the President may remove an incumbent 
when he becomes satisfied of his unfaithfulness and incapacity, 
there would appear to be less necessity to give him also a right 
of control, than thpre would be if he could not remove him. 

We may try this question by supposing it to arise in a ju- 
dicial proceeding. If the Secretary of the Treasury were im- 
peached for removing the deposits, could he justify himself by 
saying that he did it by the President's direction ? K he could, 
then no executive officer could ever be impeached, who obeys 
the President; and the whole notion of making such officers 
impeachable at all would be farcical If he could not so justify 
himself (and all will allow he could not), the reason can only 
be that the act of removal is his own act; the power, a power 
confided to him, for the just exercise of which the law looks to 
his discretion, his honesty, and his direct responsibility. 

Now, Sir, the President wishes the world to understand that 
he himself decided on the question of the removal of the de- 
posits; that he took the whole responsibility of the measure 
upon himself; that he wished it to be considered his own aU; 
that he not only himself decided that the thing should be done, 
but regulated its details also, and named the day for carrying 
it into effect 

I have always entertained a very erroneous view of the par^ 
tition of powers, and of the true nature of official responsibility 
under our Constitution, if this be not a plain case of the as- 
sumption of power. 

The legislature had fixed a place, by law, for the keeping of 
the public money. They had, at the same time and by the same 
law, created and conferred a power of removal, to be exercised 
contingently. This power they had vested in the Secretary, by 
express words. The law did not say that the deposits should 


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be made in the bank, unless the President should order other- 
wise; but it did say that they should be made there, unless the 
Secretary of the Treasury should order otherwise. I put it to 
the plain sense and common candor of all men, whether the dis- 
cretion thus to be exercised over the subject was not the Secre- 
tary's own personal discretion ; and whether, therefore, the inter- 
position of the authority of another, acting directly and conclu- 
sively on the subject, deciding the whole question, even in its 
particulars and details, be not an assumption of power ? 

The Senate regarded this interposition as an encroachment 
by the executive on other branches of the government ; as an 
interference with the legislative disposition of the public treas- 
ure. It was strongly and forcibly urged, yesterday, by the honor- 
able member from South Carolina, that the true and only mode 
of preserving any balance of power, in mixed governments, is to 
keep an exact balance. This is very true, and to this end en^ 
croachment must be resisted at the first step. The question is, 
therefore, whether, upon the true principles of the Constitution, 
this exercise of power by the President can be justified. Wheth- 
er the consequences be prejudicial or not, if there be an illegal 
exercise of power, it is to be resisted in the proper manner; 
Even if no harm or inconvenience result from transgressing the 
boundary, the intrusion is not to be suflered to pass unnoticed. 
Every encroachment, great or small, is important enough, to 
awaken the attention of those who are intrusted with the preset 
vation of a constitutional government We are not to wait till 
great public mischiefs come, till the government is overthrown, 
or liberty itself put into extreme jeopardy. We should not be 
worthy sons of our fathers were we so to regard great questions 
affecting the general freedom. Those fathers accomplished the 
Revolution on a strict question of principle. The Parliament of 
Great Britain asserted a right to tax the Colonies in all cases 
whatsoever; and it was precisely on this question that they 
made the Revolution turn. The amount of taxation was trifling, 
but the claim itself was inconsistent with liberty ; and that was^ 
in their eyes, enough. It was against the recital of an act of 
Parliament, rather than against any suffering under its enact- 
ments, that they took up arms. They went to war against a pre- 
amble. They fought seven years against a declaration. They 
poured out their treasures and their blood like water, in a con- 

VOL. IV. 10 


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test against an assertion which those less sagacious and not 
so well schooled in the principles of civil liberty would have 
regarded as barren phraseology, or mere parade of words. They 
saw in the claim of the British Parliament a seminal principle 
of mischief, the germ of unjust power ; they detected it, dragged 
it forth from underneath its plausible disguises, struck at it ; nor 
did it elude either their steady eye or their well-directed t4ow till 
they had extirpated and destroyed it, to the smallest fibre. On 
this question of principle, while actual suffering was yet afar off, 
they raised their flag against a power, to which, for purposes of 
foreign conquest and subjugation, Rome, in the height of her 
glory, is not to be compared ; a power which has dotted over the 
surface of the whole globe with her possessions and military 
posts, whose morning drum-beat, following the sun, and keep- 
ing company with the hours, circles the earth with one contin- 
uous and unbroken strain of the martial airs of England. 

The necessity of holding strictly to the principle upon which 
free governments are constructed, and to those precise lines 
which fix the partitions of power between different branches, is 
as plain, if not as cogent, as that of resisting, as our fathers did, 
the strides of the parent country against the rights of the Colo- 
nies ; because, whether the power which exceeds its just limits 
be foreign or domestic, whether it be the encroachment of all 
branches on the rights of the people, or that of one branch on the 
rights of others, in either case the balanced and well-adjusted ma- 
chinery of free government is disturbed, and, if the derangement 
go on, the whole system must falL 

But the case before us is not a case of merely theoretic in- 
fringement ; nor is it one of trifling importance. Far otherwise. 
It respects one of the highest and most important of all the 
powers of government ; that is to say, the custody and control 
of the public money. The act of removing the deposits, which 
I now consider as the President's act, and which his friends on 
tliis floor defend as his act, took the national purse from beneath 
the security and guardianship of the law, and disposed of its 
contents, in parcels, in such places of deposit as he chose to se- 
lect At this very moment, every dollar of the public treasure 
is subject, so far as respects its custody and safe-keeping, to hia 
unlimited control. We know not where it is to-day ; still less 
do we know where it may be to-morrow. 


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Bntj Mr. President, this is not all. There is another part of 
the case, which has not been so much discussed, but which ap- 
pears to me to be still more indefensible in its character. It 
is something which may well teach us the tendency of power 
to move forward, with accelemted pace, if it be allowed to take 
the first step. The Bank of the United States, in addition to 
the services rendered to the treasury, gave for its charter, and for 
the use of the public deposits, a bonus or outright sum of one 
million and a half of dollars. This sum was paid by the bank 
into the treasury soon after the commencement of its charter. 
In the act which passed both houses for renewing the charter, in 
1832, it was provided that the bank, for the same consideration, 
should pay two hundred thousand dollars a year during the pe- 
riod for which it was proposed to renew it A similar provision 
is in the bill which I asked leave to introduce some weeks ago. 
Now, Sir, this shows that the custody of the deposits is a bene- 
fit for which a bank may well afford to pay a large annual sum. 
The banks which now hold the deposits pay nothing to the 
public ; they give no bonus, they pay no annuity. But this loss 
of so much money is not the worst part of the case, nor that 
which ought most to alarm us. Although they pay nothing to 
the public, they do pay, nevertheless, such sums, and for such 
uses, as may be agreed upon between themselves and the execu- 
tive government We are officially informed that an officer is 
appointed by the Secretary of the IVeasury to inspect or super- 
intend these selected banks ; and this officer is compensated by 
a salary fixed by the executive, agreed to by the banks, and paid 
by them. I ask, Sir, if there can be a more irregular or a more 
illegal transaction than this ? Whose money is it out of which 
this salary is paid ? Is it not money justly due to the United 
States, and paid, because it is so due, for the advantage of hold- 
ing the deposits ? If a dollar is received on that account, is not 
its only true destination into the general treasury of the govern- 
ment ? And who has authority, without law, to create an office, 
to fix a salary, and to pay that salary out of this money ? Here 
is an inspector or supervisor of the deposit banks. But what 
law has provided for such an officer ? What commission has 
he received ? Who concurred in his appointment ? What oath 
does he take ? How is he to be punished or impeached if he 
coUudes with any of these banks to embezzle the public money 


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or defraud the government? The value of the use of this pub- 
lic money to the deposit banks is probably two hundred thou- 
sand dollars a year ; or, if less than that, it is yet, certainly, a 
very great sum. May the President appoint whatever officers 
he pleases, with whatever duties he pleases, and pay them as 
much as he pleases, out of the moneys thus paid by the banks, 
for the sake of having the deposits ? 

Mr. President, the executive claim of power is exactly this, 
that the President may keep the money of the public in what- 
ever banks he chooses, on whatever terms he chooses, and apply 
the sums which these banks are willing to pay for its use to 
whatever purposes he chooses. These sums are not to come 
into the general treasury. They are to be appropriated before 
they get there ; they are never to be brought under the control 
of Congress; they are to be paid to officers and agents not 
known to the law, not nominated to the Senate, and responsible 
to nobody but the executive itself. I ask gentlemen if all this 
be lawful. Are they prepared to defend it? Will they stand 
up and justify it? In my opinion, Sir, it is a clear and most 
dangerous assumption of power. It is the creation of office 
without law ; the appointment to office without consulting the 
Senate: the establishment of a salary without law; and the 
payment of that salary out of a fund which itself is derived from 
the use of the public treasures. This, Sir, is my other reason 
for concurring in the vote of the 28th of March ; and on these 
grounds I leave the propriety of that vote, so far as I am con- 
cerned with it, to be judged of by the country. 

But, Sir, the President denies the power of the Senate to pass 
any such resolution, on any ground whatever. Suppose the 
declaration contained in the resolution to be true ; suppose the 
President had, in fact, assumed powers not granted to him ; 
does the Senate possess the right to declare its opinion, affirm- 
ing this fact, or does it not? I maintain that the Senate does 
possess such a power; the President denies it 

Mr. President, we need not look far, nor search deep, for the 
foundation of this right in the Senate. It is close at hand, and 
clearly visible. In the first place, it is the right of self-defence. 
In the second place, it is a right founded on the duty of repre- 
senlative bodies, in a free government, to defend the public lib- 
erty against encroachment We must presume that the Senate 


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honestly entertained the opinion expressed in the resolution of 
the 28th of March ; and, entertaining that opinion, its right to 
express it is but the necessary consequence of its right to defend 
its own constitutional authority, as one branch of the govern- 
ment This is its clear right, and this, too, is its imperative duty. 
If one or both the other branches of the government happen 
to do that which appears to us inconsistent with the constitu- 
tional righte of the Senate, will any one say that the Senate is 
yet bound to be passive, and to be silent ? to do nothing, and to 
say nothing? Or, if one branch appears to encroach on the 
rights of the other two, have these two no power of remon- 
strance, complaint, or resistance ? Sir, the question may be put 
in a still more striking form. Has the Senate a right to have an 
opinion in a case of this kind ? If it may have an opinion, how 
is that opinion to be ascertained but by resolution and vote ? 
The objection must go the whole length ; it must maintain that 
the Senate has not only no right to express opinions, but no 
right to form opinions, on the conduct of the executive govern- 
ment, though in matters intimately affecting the powers and 
duties of the Senate itself. It is not possible. Sir, that such a 
doctrine can be maintained for a single moment All political 
bodies resist what they deem encroachments by resolutions ex- 
pressive of their sentiments, and their purpose to resist such 
encroachments. When such a resolution is presented for its 
consideration, the question is, whether it be true ; not whether 
the body has authority to pass it, admitting it to be true. The 
Senate, like other public bodies, is perfectly justifiable in defend- 
ing, in this mode, either its legislative or executive authority. 
The usages of Parliament, the practice in our State legislatures 
and assemblies, both before and since the Revolution, and pre- 
cedents in the Senate itself, fully maintain this right The case 
of the Panama mission is in point In that case, Mr. Branch, 
from North Carolina, introduced a resolution, which, after re- 
citing that the President, in his annual message and in his com- 
munication to the Senate, had asserted that he possessed an 
authority^ to make certain appointments, aUhough tlie appoint- 
menls had not been made^ went on to declare that " a silent ac- 
quiescence on the part of this bodp, mat/y at some future time, be 
drawn into dangerous precedent " ; and to resolve, therefore, that 
the President does not possess the right or power said to be 


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claimed by him. This resolution was discussed, and finally laid 
on the table. But the question discussed was, whether the res- 
olution was correct, in fact and principle ; not whether the Sen- 
ate had any right to pass such resolution. So far as I remem- 
ber, no one pretended that, if the President had exceeded his 
authority, the Senate might not so declare by resolution. No 
one ventured to contend that, whether the rights of the Senate 
were invaded or not, the Senate must hold its peace. 

The Protest labors strenuously to show that the Senate adopt- 
ed the resolution of the 28th of March, under its judicial au- 
thority. The reason of this attempt is obvious enough. If the 
Senate, in its judicial character, has been trying the President, 
then he has not had a regular and formal trial ; and, on that 
ground, it is hoped the public sympathy may be moved. But 
the Senate has acted not in its judicial, but in its legislative 
capacity. As a legislative body, it has defended its own just 
authority, and the authority of the other branch of the legisla- 
ture. Whatever attacks our own rights and privileges, or what- 
ever encroaches on the power of both houses, we may oppose 
and resist, by declaration, resolution, or other similar proceed- 
ings. If we look to the books of precedents, if we examine the 
journals of legislative bodies, we find everywhere instances of 
such proceedings. 

It is to be observed. Sir, that the Protest imposes silence on 
the House of Representatives as well as on the Senate. It de- 
clares that no power is conferred on either branch of the legis- 
lature, to consider or decide upon official acts of the executive, 
for the purpose of censure, and without a view to legislation or 
impeachment. This, I think. Sir, is pretty high-toned preten- 
sion. According to this doctrine, neither house could assert its 
own rights, however the executive might assail them ; neither 
house could point out the danger to the people, however fast 
executive encroachment might be extending itself, or whatever 
danger it might threaten to the public liberties. If the two 
houses of Congress may not express an opinion of executive 
(jonduct by resolution, there is the same reason why they should 
not express it in any other form, or by any other mode of pro- 
ceeding. Indeed, the Protest limits both houses, expressly, to the 
case of impeachment If tJhe House of Representatives are not 
about to impeach the President, they have nothing to say of his 


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measures or of his conduct ; and unless the Senate are engaged 
in trying an impeachment, their mouths, too, are stopped. It is 
the practice of the President to send us an annual message, in 
which he rehearses the general proceedings of the executive for 
the past year. This message we refer to our committees for 
consideration. But, according to the doctrine of the Protest, 
they can express no opinion upon any executive proceeding 
upon which it gives information. Suppose the President had 
told us, in his last annual message, what he had previously told 
us in his cabinet paper, that the removal of the deposits was his 
act, done on his responsibility ; and that the Secretary of the 
Treasury had exercised no discretion, formed no judgment, pre- 
sumed to have no opinion whatever, on the subject This part 
of the message would have been referred to the committee on 
finance ; but what could they say ? They think it shows a plain 
violation of the Constitution and the laws ; but the President is 
not impeached ; therefore they can express no censure. They 
think it a direct invasion of legislative power, but they must not 
say so. They may, indeed, commend, if they can. The grate- 
ful business of praise is lawful to them ; but if, instead of com- 
mendation and applause, they find cause for disapprobation, 
censure, or alarm, the Protest enjoins upon them absolute si- 

Formerly, Sir, it was a practice for the President to meet botl 
bouses, at the opening of the session, and deliver a speech, as iv 
still the usage of some of the State legislatures. To this speech 
there was an answer from each house, and those answers ex- 
pressed, freely, the sentiments of the house upon all the merit? 
and faults of the administration. The discussion of the topic? 
contained in the speech, and the debate on the answers, usually 
drew out the whole force of parties, and lasted sometimes a 
week. President Washington's conduct, in every year of his 
administration, was thus freely and publicly canvassed. He did 
not complain of it ; he did not doubt that both houses had a 
perfect right to comment, with the utmost latitude, consistent 
with decorum, upon all his measures. Answers, or amendments 
to answers, were not unfrequently proposed, very hostile to his 
own course of public policy, if not sometimes bordering on dis- 
respect. And when they did express respect and regard, there 
were votes ready to be recorded against the expression of those 


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sentiments. To all this President Washington took no excep- 
tion; for he well knew that these, and similar proceedings, 
belonged to the power of popular bodies. But if the President 
were now to meet us with a speech, and should inform us of 
measures, adopted by himself in the recess, which should appear 
to us the most plain, palpable, and dangerous violations of the 
Constitution, we must, nevertheless, either keep respectful si- 
lence, or fill our answer merely with courtly phrases of appro- 

Mr. President, I know not who wrote this Protest, but I con- 
fess I am astonished, truly astonished, as well at the want of 
knowledge which it displays of constitutional law, as at the high 
and dangerous pretensions which it puts forth. Neither branch 
of the legislature can express censure upon the President's con- 
duct! Suppose, Sir, that we should see him enlisting troops 
and raising an army, can we say nothing, and do nothing? 
Suppose he were to declare war against a foreign power, and 
put the army and the fleet in action ; are we still to be silent ? 
Suppose we should see him borrowing money on the credit of 
the United States; are we yet to wait for impeachment? In- 
deed, Sir, in regard to this borrowing money on the credit of the 
United States, I wish to call the attention of the Senate, not 
only to what might happen, but to what has actually happened. 
We are informed that the Post-Office Department, a depart- 
ment over which the President claims the same control as over 
the rest, has cLctually borrowed near half a million of money on 
the credit of the United States. 

Mr. President, the first power granted to Congress by the 
Constitution is the power to lay taxes ; the second, the power to 
borrow money on the credit of the United States. Now, Sir, 
where does the executive find its authority, in or through any 
department, to borrow money without authority of Congress ? 
This proceeding appears to me wholly illegal, and reprehensible 
in a very high degree. It may be said that it is not true that 
this money is borrowed on the credit of the United States, but 
that it is borrowed on the credit of the Post-Office Department. 
But that would be mere evasion. The department is but a 
name. It is an office, and nothing more. The banks have not 
lent this money to any officer. If Congress should abolish the 
whole department to-morrow, would the banks not expect the 


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United States to replace this borrowed money ? The money, 
then, is borrowed on the credit of the United States, an act 
which Congress alone is competent to authorize. If the Post- 
Office Department may borrow money, so may the War De- 
partment and the Navy Department If half a million may be 
borrowed, ten millions may be borrowed. What, then, if this 
transaction shall be justified, is to hinder the executive from bor- 
rowing money to maintain fleets and armies, or for any other 
purpose, at his pleasure, without any authority of law ? Yet 
even this, according to the doctrine of the Protest, we have no 
right to complain of. We have no right to declare that an ex- 
ecutive department has violated the Constitution and broken 
the law, by borrowing money on the credit of the United States. 
Nor could we make a similar declaration, if we were to see the 
executive, by means of this borrrowed money, enlisting armies 
and equipping fleets. And yet, Sir, the President has found no 
difficulty, heretofore, in expressing his opinions, in a paper not 
called for by the exercise of any official duty^ upon the conduct 
and proceedings of the two houses of Congress. At the com- 
mencement of this session, he sent us a message, commenting 
on the land bill which the two houses passed at the end of the 
last session. That bill he had not approved, nor had he returned 
it with objections. Congress was dissolved ; and the bill, there- 
fore, was completely dead, and could not be revived. No com- 
munication from him could have the least possible effect as an 
official act. Yet he saw fit to send a message on the subject, 
and in that message he very freely declares his opinion that the 
bill which had passed both houses be^an with an entire subver* 
sion of every one of the compacts by ivhich the United Slates be- 
came possessed of their Western domain ; that one of its provis- 
ions was in direct and undisg^uised violation of the pledge given 
by Congress to the States; that the Constitution provides that 
these compacts shall be untouched by the legislative power, 
whieJi can only make needful rules and regulations ; and that 
all beyond that is an assumption of undelegated power. 

These are the terms in which the President speaks of an act of 
the two houses; not in an official paper, not in a communication 
which it was necessary for him to make to them ; but in a mes- 
sage, adopted only as a mode through which to make public 
these opinions. After this, it would seem too late to enjoin on 


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the houses of Congress a total forbearance from all comment 
on the measures of the executive. 

Not only is it the right of both houses, or of either, to resist, 
by vote, declaration, or resolution, whatever it may deem an en- 
croachment of executive power, but it is also undoubtedly the 
right of either house to oppose, in like manner, any encroach- 
ment by the other. The two houses have each its own appropri- 
ate powers and authorities, which it is bound to preserve. They 
have, too, different constituents. The members of the Senate 
are representatives of States ; and it is in the Senate alone that 
the four-and-twenty States, as political bodies, have a direct influ- 
ence in the legislative and executive powers of this government. 
He is a strange advocate of State rights, who maintains that 
this body, thus representing the States, and thus being the strictly 
federal branch of the legislature, may not assert and maintain 
all and singular its own powers and privileges, against either or 
both of the other branches. 

If any thing be done or threatened derogatory to the rights of 
the States, as secured by the organization of the Senate, may we 
not lift up our voices against it ? Suppose the House of Repn 
resentatives should vote that the Senate ought not to propose 
amendments to revenue bills ; would it be the duty of the Sen- 
ate to take no notice of such proceeding ? Or, if we were to see 
the President issuing commissions to office to persons who had 
never been nominated to the Senate, are we not to remonstrate ? 

Sir, there is no end of cases, no end of illustrations. The doc- 
trines of the Protest, in this respect, cannot stand the slightest 
scrutiny ; they are blown away by the first breath of discussion. 

And yet, Sir, it is easy to perceive why this right of declaring 
its sentiments respecting the conduct of the executive is denied 
to either house, in its legislative capacity. It is merely that the 
Senate might be presented in the odious light of trying the 
President, judicially, without regular accusation or hearing. 
The Protest declares that the President is charged with a crimen 
and, without hearing or trial, found guilty and condemned. This 
is evidently an attempt to appeal to popular feeling, and to rep- 
resent the President as unjustly treated and unfairly tried. Sir, 
it is a false appeal. The President has not been tried at all; 
he has not been accused ; he has not been charged with crime ; 
he has not been condemned. Accusation, trial, and sentence axe 


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terms belonging to judicial proceedings. But the Senate has 
been engaged in no such proceeding. The resolution of the 
28th of March was not an exercise of judicial power, either in 
form, in substance, or in intent. Every body knows that the 
Senate can exercise no judicial power until articles of impeach- 
ment are brought before it It is then to proceed, by accusation 
and answer, hearing, trial, and judgment But there has been 
no impeachment, no answer, no hearing, no judgment. All 
that the Senate did was to pass a resolution, in legislative form, 
declaring its opinion of certain acts of the executive. This res- 
olution imputed no crime ; it charged no corrupt motive ; it pro- 
posed no punishment It was directed, not against the Presi- 
dent personally, but against the act; and that act it declared to 
be, in its judgment, an assumption of authority not warranted 
by the Constitution. 

It is in vain that the Protest attempts to shift the resolution 
to the judicial character of the Senate. The case is too plain for 
such an argument to be plausible. But, in order to lay some 
foundation for it, the Protest, as I have already said, contends 
that neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives can 
express its opinions on the conduct of the President, except in 
some form connected with impeachment; so that if the power 
of impeachment did not exist, these two houses, though they be 
representative bodies, though one of them be filled by the im- 
mediate representatives of the people, though they be consti- 
tuted like other popular and representative bodies, could not 
utter a syllable, although they saw the executive either tram- 
pling on their own rights and privileges, or grasping at absolute 
authority and dominion over the liberties of the country ! Sir, I 
hardly know how to speak of such claims of impunity for exec- 
utive encroachment. I am amazed that any American citizen 
should draw up a paper containing such lofty pretensions ; pre- 
tensions which would have been met with scorn in England, at 
any time since the Revolution of 1688. A man who should 
stand up, in either house of the British Parliament, to maintain 
that the house could not, by vote or resolution, maintain its own 
rights and privileges, would make even the Tory benches hang 
their heads for very shame. 

There was, indeed, a time when such proceedings were not 
allowed. Some of the kings of the Stuart race would not 


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tolerate them. A signal instanfce of royal displeasure with 
the proceedings of Parliament occurred in the latter part of 
the reign of James the First. The House of Commons had 
spoken, on some occasion, " of its own undoubted rights and 
privileges." The king thereupon sent them a letter, declaring 
that he vjould not allow that they had any undoubted rights; 
but that what they enjoyed they might still hold by his own royal 
grace and permission. Sir Edward Coke and Mr. Granville 
were not satisfied with this title to their privileges ; and, under 
their lead, the house entered on its journals a resolution assert- 
ing its privileges, as its own undoubted jHght, and manifesting a 
determination to maintain them as such. This, says the histo- 
rian, so enraged his Majesty, that he sent for the journal, had it 
brought into the Council, and there, in the presence of his lords 
and great officers of state, tore out the offensive resolution with 
his own royal hand. He then dissolved Parliament, and sent its 
most refractory members to the Tower. I have no fear, certain- 
ly. Sir, that this English example will be followed, on this occa- 
sion, to its full extent; nor would I insinuate that anything 
outrageous has been thought of, or intended, except outrageous 
pretensions; but such pretensions I must impute to the author 
of this Protest, whoever that author may be. 

When this and the other house shall lose the freedom of 
speech and debate; when they shall surrender the rights of pub- 
licly and freely canvassing all important measures of the exec- 
utive ; when they shall not be allowed to maintain their own 
authority and their own privile»ges by vote, declaration, or reso- 
lution, — they will then be no longer free representatives of a 
free people, but slaves themselves, and fit instruments to make 
slaves of others. 

The Protest, Mr. President, concedes what it doubtless regards 
as a liberal right of discussion to the people themselves. But 
its language, even in acknowledging this right of the people to 
discuss the conduct of their servants, is qualified and peculiar. 
The free people of the United States, it declares, have an un- 
doubted right to discuss the official conduct of the President 
in such language and form as they may think proper, " subject 
only to the restraints of truth and justice." But, then, who 
is to be judge of this truth and justice ? Are the people to 
judge for themselves, or are others to judge for them? The 


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Protest is here speaking of political rights, and not moral rights ; 
and if restraints are imposed on political rights, it must follow, 
of course, that others are to decide whenever the case arises 
whether these restraints have been violated. It is strange that 
the writer of the Protest did ndt perceive that, by using this lan- 
guage, he was pushing the President into a direct avowal of the 
doctrines of 1798. The text of the Protest and the text of the 
obnoxious act* of that year are nearly identical. 

But, Sir, if the people have a right to discuss the official con- 
duct of the executive, so have their representatives. We have 
been taught to regard a representative of the people as a senti- 
nel on the watch-tower of liberty. Is he to be blind, though 
visible danger approaches ? Is he to be deaf, though sounds of 
peril fill the air ? Is he to be dumb, while a thousand duties 
impel him to raise the cry of alarm ? Is he not, rather, to catch 
the lowest whisper which breathes intention or purpose of en- 
croachment on the public liberties, and to give his voice breath 
and utterance at the first appearance of danger ? Is not his eye 
to traverse the whole horizon with the keen and eager vision of 
an unhooded hawk, detecting, through all disguises, every ene- 
my advancing, in any form, towards the citadel which he guards? 
Sir, this watchfulness for public liberty ; this duty of foreseeing 
danger and proclaiming it; this promptitude and boldness in 
resisting attacks on the Constitution from any quarter ; this de- 
fence of established landmarks ; this fearless resistance of what- 
ever would transcend or remove them, — all belong to the repre- 
sentative character, are interwoven with its very nature. If 
deprived of them, an active, intelligent, faithful agent of the 
people will be converted into an unresisting and passive instru- 
ment of power. A representative body, which gives up these 
rights and duties, gives itself up. It is a representative body no 
longer. It has broken the tie between itself and its constituents, 
and henceforth is fit only to be regarded as an inert, self-sacrificed 
mass, from which all appropriate principle of vitality has de- 
parted for ever. 

I have thus endeavored to vindicate the right of the Senate to 
pass the resolution of the 28th of March, notwithstanding the 
denial of that right in the Protest 

* ComnKmly called the Sedition Act, approyed 14th July, 1798. 
VOL. IV. 11 


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But there are other sentiments and opinions expressed in the 
Protest, of the very highest importance, and which demand noth- 
ing less than our utmost attention. 

The first object of a free people is the preservation of their 
liberty ; and liberty is only to be preservexi by maintaining con- 
stitutional restraints and just divisions of political power. Noth- 
ing is more deceptive or more dangerous than the pretence of a 
desire to simplify government The simplest governments are 
despotisms; the next simplest, limited monarchies; but all re* 
publics, all governments of law, must impose numerous limita- 
tions and qualifications of authority, and give many positive and 
many qualified rights. In other words, they must be subject to 
rule and regulation. This is the very essence of free political ia- 
stitutions. The spirit of liberty is, indeed, a bold and fearless 
spirit ; but it is also a sharp-sighted spirit ; it is a cautious, saga- 
cious, discriminating, far-seeing intelligence ; it is jealous of en- 
croachment, jealous of power, jealous of man. It demands 
checks ; it seeks for guards ; it insists on securities ; it intrenches 
itself behind strong defences, and fortifies itself with all possible 
care against the assaults of ambition and passion. It does not 
trust the amiable weaknesses of human nature, and therefore it 
will not permit power to overstep its prescribed limits, though 
benevolence, good intent, and patriotic purpose come along with 
it. Neither does it satisfy itself with flashy and temporary resist- 
ance to illegal authority. Far otherwise. It seeks for duration 
and permanence. It looks before and after; and, building on 
the experience of ctges which are past, it labors diligently for the 
benefit of ages to come. This is the nature of constitutional 
liberty ; and this is awr liberty, if we will rightly understand and 
preserve it. Every free government is necessarily complicated, 
because all such governments establish restraints, as well on 
the power of government itself as on that of individuals. If 
we will abolish the distinction of branches, and have but one 
branch ; if we will abolish jury trials, and leave all to the judge ; 
if we will then ordain that the legislator shall himself be that 
judge; and if we will place the executive power in the sam^ 
bands, we may readily simplify government. We may easily 
bring it to the simplest of all possible forms, a pure despotism. 
But a separation of departments, so far as practicable, and the 
preservation of clear lines of division between them, is the fun- 


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dainental idea in the creation of all our constitations ; and, 
doubtless, the continnance of regtilated liberty depends on main- 
taining these boundaries. 

In the progress, Sir, of the governments of the United States, 
we seem exposed to two classes of dangers or disturbances; 
one external, the other internaL It may happen that collisions 
arise between this government and the governments of the States. 
That case belongs to the first class. A memorable instance of 
this kind occurred last year. It was my conscientious opinion, on 
that occasion, that the authority claimed by an individual State* 
was subversive of the just powers of this government, and, 
indeed, incompatible with its existence. I gave a hearty coop- 
eration, therefore, to measures which the crisis seemed to require. 
We have now before us what appears, to my judgment, to be 
an instance of the latter kind. A contest has arisen between 
different branches of the same government, interrupting their 
harmony, and threatening to disturb their balance. It is of the 
highest importance, therefore, to examine the question carefully, 
and to decide it justly. 

The separation of the powers of government into three de- 
partments, though all our constitutions profess to be founded on 
it, has, nevertheless, never been perfectly established in any gov- 
ernment of the world, and perhaps never can be. The general 
principle is of inestimable value, and the leading lines of dis- 
tinction sufficiently plain ; yet there are powers of so undecided 
a character, that they do not seem necessarily to range them- 
selves under either head. And most of our constitutions, too, 
having laid down the general principle, immediately create ex- 
ceptions. There do not exist, in the general science of govern- 
ment, or the received maxims of political law, such precise defi- 
nitions as enable us always to say of a given power whether it 
be legislative, executive, or judicial And this is one reason, 
doubtless, why the Constitution, in conferring power on all the 
departments, proceeds not by general definition, but by specific 
enumeration. And, again, it grants a power in general terms, 
but yet, in the same or some other article or section, imposes a 
limitation or qualification on the grant ; and the grant and the 
limitation must, of course, be construed together. Thus the 
Constitution says that all legislative power, therein granted, 

• South Carolina. 


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shall be vested in Congress, which Congress shall consist of a 
Senate and House of Representatives ; and yet, in another arti- 
cle, it gives to the President a qualified negative over all acts of 
Congress. So the Constitution declares that the judicial power 
shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and such inferior courts 
as Congress may establish. It gives, nevertheless, in another 
provision, judicial power to the Senate; and, in like manner, 
though it declares that the executive power shall be vested in 
the President, using, in the immediate context, no words of lim- 
itation, yet it elsewhere subjects the treaty-making power, and 
the appointing power, to the concurrence of the Senate. The 
irresistible inference from these considerations is, that the mere 
nomination of a department, as one of the three great and com- 
monly acknowledged departments of government, does not con- 
fer on that depEirtment any power at all. Notwithstanding the 
departments are ' called the legislative, the executive, and the 
judicial, we must yet look into the provisions of the Constitu- 
tion itself, in order to learn, first, what powers the Constitution 
regards as legislative, executive, and judicial; and, in the next 
place, what portions or quantities of these powers are conferred 
on the respective departments; because no one will contend 
that all legislative power belongs to Congress, all executive 
power to the President, or all judicial power to the courts of the 
United States. 

The first three articles of the Constitution, as all know, are 
taken up in prescribing the organization, and enumerating the 
powers, of the three departments. The first article treats of 
the legislature, and its first section is, " All legislative power, 
herein granted^ shall be vested in a Congress of the United 
States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Repre- 
sentatives." The second article treats of the executive power, 
and its first section declares that " the executive power shall be 
vested in a President of the United States of America." The 
third article treats of the judicial power, and its first section de- 
clares that " the judicial power of the United States shall be 
vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the 
Congress may, from time to time, ordain and establish." 

It is too plain to be doubted, I think, Sir, that these descrip- 
tions of the persons or officers in whom the executive and the 
judicial powers are to be vested no more define the extent of 


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the grant of those powers, than the words quoted from the first 
article describe the extent of the legislative grant to Congress. 
All these several titles, heads of artides, or introductory clauses, 
with the general declarations which they contain, serve to desig- 
nate the departments, and to mark the general distribution of 
powers ; but in all the departments, in the executive and judicial 
as well as in the legislative, it would be unsafe to contend for 
any specific power under such clauses. 

If we look into the State constitutions, we shall find the line 
of distinction between the departments still less perfectly drawn, 
although the general principle of the distinction is laid down in 
most of them, and in some of them in very positive and em- 
phatic terms. In some of these States, notwithstanding the 
principle of distribution is adopted and sanctioned, the legis- 
lature appoints the judges ; and in others it appoints both the 
governor and the judges; and in others, again, it appoints not 
only the judges, but all other officers. 

The inferences which, I think, follow firom these views of the 
subject, are two : firsts that the denomination of a department 
does not fix the limits of the powers conferred on it, nor even 
their exact nature ; and, second (which, indeed, follows from the 
first), that, in our American governments, the chief executive 
magistrate does not necessarily, and by force of his general 
character of supreme executive, possess the appointing power. 
He may have it, or he may not, according to the particular pro- 
visions applicable to each case in the respective constitutions. 

The President appears to have taken a different view of this 
sobject He seems to regard the appointing power as originally 
and inherently in the executive, and as remaining absolute in 
his hands, except so far as the Constitution restrains it. This I 
do not agree to, and I shall have occasion hereafter to examine 
the question further. I have intended thus far only to insist on 
the high and indispensable duty of maintaining the division of 
power ds the Constitution has marked out that division, and to 
oppose claims of authority not founded on express grants or 
necessary implication, but sustained merely by argument or in- 
ference from names or denominations given to departments. 

Mr. President, the resolutions now before us declare, that the 
Protest asserts powers as belonging to the President inconsistent 
with the authority of the two houses of Congress, and incon- 
11 • 


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sistent with the Constitution ; and that the Protest itself is a 
breach of privilege. I believe all this to be true. 

The doctrines of the Protest are inconsistent with the author- 
ity of the two houses, because, in my judgment, they deny the 
just extent of the law-making power. I take the Protest as it 
was sent to us, without inquiring how far the subsequent mes- 
sage has modified or explained it It is singular, indeed, that a 
paper, so long in preparation, so elaborate in composition, and 
which is put forth for so high a purpose as the Protest avows, 
should not be able to stand an hour's discussion before it became 
evident that it was indispensably necessary to alter or explain 
its contents. Explained or unexplained, however, the paper 
contains sentiments which justify us, as I think, in adopting 
these resolutions. 

In the first place, I think the Protest a dear breach of privi- 
lege. It is a reproof or rebuke of the Senate, in language hardly 
respectful, for the exercise of a power clearly belonging to it as a 
legislative body. It entirely misrepresents the proceedings of 
the Senate. I find this paragraph in it, among others of a simi- 
lar tone and character : — "A majority of the Senate, whose in- 
terference with the preliminary question has, for the best of all 
reasons, been studiously excluded, anticipate the action of the 
House of Representatives, assume not only the function which 
belongs exclusively to that body, but convert themselves into 
accusers, witnesses, counsel, and judges, and prejudge the whole 
case ; thus presenting the appalling spectacle, in a free state, of 
judges going through a labored preparation for an impartial 
hearing and decision, by a previous ex parte investigation and 
sentence against the supposed offender." 

Now, Sir, this paragraph, I am bound to say, is a total mis- 
representation of the proceedings of the Senate. A majority of 
the Senate have not anticipated the House of Representatives ; 
they have not assumed the functions of that body ; they have 
not converted themselves into accusers, witnesses, counsel, or 
judges; they have made no ex parte investigation; they have 
given no sentence. This paragraph is an elaborate perversion 
of the whole design and the whole proceedings of the Senate. 
A Protest, sent to us by the President, against votes which the 
Senate has an unquestionable right to pass, and containing, too, 
such a misrepresentation of these votes as this paragraph mani- 
fests, is a breach of privilege. 


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But there is another breach of privilege. The President inter- 
feres between the members of the Senate and their constituents, 
and charges them with acting contrary to the will of those con- 
stituents. He says it -is his right and duty to look to the jour- 
nals of the Senate to ascertain who voted for the resolution of 
the 28th of March, and then to show that individual Senators 
have, by their votes on that resolution, disobeyed the instruc- 
tions or violated the known will of the legislatures who appoint- 
ed them. All this he claims as his right and his duty. And 
where does he find any such right or any such duty ? What 
right has he to send a message to either house of Congress tell- 
ing its members that they disobey the will of their constituents ? 
Has any English sovereign since Cromwell's time dared to send 
such a message to Parliament ? Sir, if he can tell us that some 
of us disobey our constituents, he can tell us that all do so ; and 
if we consent to receive this language from him, there is but one 
remaining step, and that is, that, since we thus disobey the will 
of our constituents, he should disperse us and send us home. 
In my opinion, the first step in this process is as distinct a breach 
of privilege as the last If Cromwell's example shall be followed 
out, it will not be more clear then than it^ is now that the privi- 
leges of the Senate have been violated. There is yet something, 
Sir, which surpasses all this ; and that is, that, after this direct 
interference, after pointing out those Senators whom he would 
represent as having disobeyed the known will of their constitu- 
ents, he disclaims all design of interfering at all I Sir, who could 
be the writer of a message, which, in the first place, makes the 
President assert such monstrous pretensions, and, in the next line, 
affiront the understanding of the Senate by disavowing all right 
to do that very thing which he is doing? If there be any thing, 
Sir, in this message, more likely than the rest of it to move one 
from his equanimity, it is this disclaimer of all design to interfere 
with the responsibility of members of the Senate to their constit- 
uents, after such interference had aheady been made, in the 
same paper, in the most objectionable and offensive form. If it 
were not for the purpose of telling these Senators that they dis- 
obeyed the will of the legislatures of the States they represent, 
far wluU purpose was it that the Protest has pointed out the four 
Senators, and paraded against them the sentiments of their leg- 
islatures ? There can be no other purpose. The Protest says, 


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indeed, that " these facts belong to the history of these proceed- 
ings 'M To the history of what proceedings? To any pro- 
ceeding to which the President was party ? To any proceed- 
ing to which the Senate was party ? Have they any thing to 
do with the resolution of the 28th of March ? But it adds, that 
these facts are important to the just development of the princi- 
ples and interests involved in the proceedings. All this might be 
said of any other facts. It is mere words. To what principles, 
to what interests, are these facts important? They can be im- 
portant but in one point of view; and that is as proof, or evi« 
dence, that the Senators have disobeyed instructions, or acted 
against the known will of their constituents in disapproving the 
President's conduct. They have not the slightest bearing in any 
other way. They do not make the resolution of the Senate 
more or less true, nor its right to pass it more or less clear. Sir, 
these proceedings of the legislatures were introduced into this 
Protest for the very purpose, and no other, of showing that 
members of the Senate have acted contrary to the will of their 
constituents. Every man sees and knows this to have been the 
sole design ; and any other pretence is a mockery to our under- 
standings. And this purpose is, in my opinion, an unlawful 
purpose ; it is an unjustifiable intervention between us and our 
constituents ; and is, therefore, a manifest and flagrant breach 
of privilege. 

In the next place, the assertions of the Protest are inconsist- 
ent with the just authority of Congress, because they claim for 
the President a power, independent of Congress, to possess the 
custody and control of the public treasures. Let this point be 
accurately examined ; and, in order to avoid mistake, I will read 
the precise words of the Protest. 

" The custody of the public property, under such regulations as may 
be prescribed by legislative authority, has always been considered an 
appropriate function of the executive department in this and all other 
governments. In accordance with this principle, every species of prop- 
erty belonging to the United States, (excepting that which is in the use 
of the several coordinate departments of the government, as means to 
aid them in performing their appropriate functions,) is in charge of offi- 
cers appointed by the President, whether it be lands, or buildings, or 
merchandise, or provisions, or clothing, or arms and munitions of war. 
The superintendents and keepers of the whole are appointed by the 
President, and removable at his will. 


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"Public money is but a species of public property. It cannot be 
raised by taxation or customs, nor brought into the treasury in any other 
way except by law ; but whenever or howsoever obtained, its custody 
always has been, and always must be, unless the Constitution be changed, 
intrusted to the executive department. No officer can be created by 
Congress, for the purpose of taking charge of it, whose appointment 
would not, by the Constitution, at once devolve on the President, and 
who would not be responsible to him for the faithful performance of his 

And, in another place, it declares that " Congress cannot, 
therefore, take out of the hands of the executive department the 
custody of the public property or money, without an assump- 
tion of executive power, and a subversion of the first principles 
of the Constitution." These, Sir, are propositions which cannot 
receive too much attention. They affirm, that the custody of 
the public money constitutionally and necessarily belongs to the 
executive ; and that, until the Constitution is changed, Congress 
cannot take it out of his hands, nor make any provision for its 
custody, except by such superintendents and keepers as are ap- 
pointed by the President and removable at his will. If these 
assertions be correct, we have, indeed, a singular constitution for 
a republican government ; for we give the executive the control, 
the custody, and the possession of the public treasury, by origi- 
nal constitutional provision ; and when Congress appropriates, 
it appropriates only what is already in the President's hands. 

Sir, I hold these propositions to be sound in neither branch. 
I maintain that the custody of the public money does not neces- 
sarily belong to the executive, under this government; and I 
hold that Congress may so dispose of it, that it shall be under 
the superintendence of keepers not appointed by the President, 
nor removable at his will. 1 think it competent for Congress to 
declare, as Congress did declare in the bank charter, that the 
public deposits should be made in the bank. When in the 
bank, they were not kept by persons appointed by the Presi- 
dent, or removable at his will. He could not change that cuS' 
tody ; nor could it be changed at all, but according to provis- 
ions made in the law itself. There was, indeed, a provision in 
the law authorizing the Secretary to change the custody. But 
suppose there had been no such provision ; suppose the contin- 
gent power had not been given to the Secretary ; would it not 


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have been a lawful enactment ? Might not the law have pro- 
vided that the public moneys should remain in the bank, until 
Congress itself should otherwise order, leaving no power of 
removal anywhere else ? And if such provision had been made, 
what power, or custody, or control, would the President have 
possessed over them ? Clearly, none at all. The act of May, 
1800, directed custom-house bonds, in places where the bank 
which was then in existence was situated, or in which it had 
branches, to be deposited in the bank or its branches for collec- 
tion, without the reservation to the Secretary, or any body else, 
of any power of removal. Now, Sir, this was an unconstitu- 
tional law, if the Protest, in the part now under consideration, 
be correct ; because it placed the public money in a custody be- 
yond the control of the President, and in the hands of keepers 
not appointed by him, nor removable at bis pleasure. One may 
readily discern. Sir, the process of reasoning by which the au- 
thor of the Protest brought himself to the conclusion that Con- 
gress could not place the public moneys beyond the President's 
control. It is all founded on the power of appointment and the 
power of removal. These powers, it is supposed, must give the 
President complete control and authority over those who actu- 
ally hold the money, and therefore must necessarily subject its 
custody, at all times, to his own individual wilL This is the 

It is true, that the appointment of all public officers, with 
some exceptions, is, by the Constitution, given to the President, 
with the consent of the Senate ; and as, in most cases, public 
property must be held by some officer, its keepers will generally 
be persons so appointed. But this is only the common, not a 
necessary consequence, of giving the appointing power to the 
Fkesident and Senate. Congress may still, if it shall so see fit, 
place the public treasure in the hand of no officer appointed by 
the President, or removable by him, but in hands quite beyond 
his control. Subject to one contingency only, it did this very 
thing by the charter of the present bank ; and it did the same 
thing absolutely, and subject to no contingency, by the law of 
1800. The Protest, in the first place, seizes on the fact that all 
officers must be appointed by the President, or on bis nomina- 
tion ; it then assumes the next step, that all officers are, and 
must be^ removable at his pleasure; and then, insisting that 


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puUk money, like other public property, must be kept by some 
public officer^ it thus arrives at the conclusion that it must always 
be in the hands of those who are appointed by the President, 
and who are removable at his pleasure. And it is very clear 
that the Protest means to maintain that the tenure of office 
c(mnot be so regulated by law, as that public officers shall not be 
removable at the pleasure of the President. 

The President considers the right of removal as a fixed, vest- 
ed, constitutional right, which Congress cannot limit, control, or 
qualify, until the Constitution shall be altered. This, Sir, is 
doctrine which I am not prepared to admit. I shall not now 
discuss the question, whether the law may not place the tenure 
of office beyond the reach of executive pleasure; but I wish 
merely to draw the attention of the Senate to the fact, that any 
snch power in Congress is denied by the principles and by the 
words of the Protest. According to that paper, we live under a 
constitution by the provisions of which the public treasures are, 
necessarily and unavoidably, always under executive control; 
and as the executive may remove all officers, and appoint others, 
at least temporarily, without the concurrence of the Senate, he 
may hold those treasures, in the hands of persons appointed by 
himself alone, in defiance of any law which Congress has passed 
or can pass. It is to be seen. Sir, how far such claims of power 
will receive the approbation of the country. It is to be seen 
whether a construction will be readily adopted which thus places 
the public purse out of the guardianship of the immediate rep- 
resentatives of the people. 

But, Sir, there is, in this paper, something even yet more 
strange than these extraordinary claims of power. There is a 
strong disposition, running through the whole Protest, to repre- 
sent the executive department of this government as the peculiar 
protector of the public liberty, the chief security on which the 
people are to rely against the encroachment of other branches 
of the government Nothing can be more manifest than this 
purpose. To this end, the Protest spreads out the President's 
official oath, reciting all its words in a formal quotation ; and 
yet the oath of members of Congress is exactly equivalent 
The President is to swear that he will " preserve, protect, and 
defend the Constitution"; and members of Congress are to 
wwesx that they will "support the Constitution." There are 


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more words in one oath than the other, but the sense is precisely 
the same. Why, then, this reference to his official oath, and 
this ostentatious quotation of it? Would the writer of the 
Protest argue that the oath itself is any grant of power; or 
that, because the President is to " preserve, protect, and defend 
the Constitution," he is, therefore, to use what means he pleases 
for such preservation, protection, and defence, or any means ex- 
cept those which the Constitution and laws have specifically 
given him ? Such an argument would be absurd ; but if the 
oath be not cited for this preposterous purpose, with what de- 
sign is it thus displayed on the face of the Protest, unless it 
be to support the general idea that the maintenance of the Con- 
stitution and the preservation of the public liberties are espe- 
cially confided to the safe discretion, the sure moderation, the 
paternal guardianship, of executive power? The oath of the 
President contains three words, all of equal import; that is, that 
he will preserve^ protect, and defend the Constitution. The 
oath of members of Congress is expressed in shorter phrase; 
it is, that they will support the Constitution. If there be any 
difference in the meaning of the two oaths, I cannot discern it; 
and yet the Protest solemnly and formally argues thus : " The 
duty of defending, so far as in him lies, the integrity of the 
Constitution, would, indeed, have resulted from the very nature 
of his office; but by thus expressing it in the official oath or 
affirmation, which, in this respect, differs from that of every 
other functionary, the founders of our republic have attested 
their sense of its importance, and have given to it a peculiar 
solemnity and force." 

Sir, I deny the proposition, and I dispute the proof. I deny 
that the duty of defending the integrity of the Constitution is, 
in any peculiar sense, confided to the President; and I deny 
that the words of his oath furnish any argument to make good 
that proposition. Be pleased, Sir, to remember offainst whom 
it is that the President holds it his peculiar duty to defend the 
integrity of the Constitution. It is not against external force ; 
it is not against a foreign foe; no such thing; but it is against 
the representatives of the people and the representatives of the 
States I It is against these that the founders of our republic 
have imposed on him the duty of defending the integrity of the 
Constitution ; a duty, he says, of the importance of which they 


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have attested their sense, and to which they have given pecu- 
liar solemnity and force, by expressing it in his official oath ! 

Let us pause, Sir, and consider this most strange proposition. 
The President is the chief executive magistrate. He is com- 
mander-in-chief of the army and navy ; nominates all persons to 
office ; claims a right to remove all at will, and to control all, 
while yet in office ; dispenses all favors ; and wields the whole 
patronage of the government. And the proposition is, that the 
duty of defending the integrity of the Constitution against the 
representatives of the States, and against the representatives of 
the people, results to him from the very nature of his office ; and 
that the founders of our republic have given to this duty, thus 
confided to him, peculiar solemnity and force I 

Mr. President, the contest, for ages, has been to rescue Liberty 
from the grasp of executive power. Whoever has engaged in 
her sacred cause, from the days of the downfall of those great 
aristocracies which had stood between the king and the people 
to the time of our own independence, has struggled for the ac- 
complishment of that single object. On the long list of the 
champions of human freedom, there is not one name dimmed by 
the reproach of advocating the extension of executive authority ; 
on the contrary, the uniform and steady purpose of all such cham- 
pions has been to limit and restrain it To this end the spirit of 
liberty, growing more and more enUghtened and more and more 
vigorous from age to age, has been battering, for centurieSi 
against the solid hutments of the feudal system. To this end, 
all that could be gained from the imprudence, snatched from the 
weakness, or wrung from the necessities of crowned heads, has 
been carefully gathered up, secured, and hoarded, as the rich 
treasures, the very jewels of liberty. To this end, popular and 
representative right has kept up its warfare against prerogative, 
with various success ; sometimes writing the history of a whole 
age in blood, sometimes witnessing the martyrdom of Sidneys 
and Russells, often baffled and repulsed, but still gaining, on the 
whole, and holding what it gained with a grasp which nothing 
but the complete extinction of its own being could compel it 
to relinquish. At length, the great conquest over executive 
power, in the leading western states of Europe, has been ao- 
oomplished. The feudal system, like other stupendous fabrics 
of past ages, is known only by the rubbish which it has left b^ 

VOL. IV. 12 


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hind it Crowned heads have been compelled to submit to thQ 
restraints of law, and the people, with that intelligence and 
Uiat spirit which make their voice resistless, have been able 
to say to prerogative, " Thus far shalt thou come, and no far- 
ther." I need hardly say, Sir, that into the full enjoyment of 
all which Europe has reached only through such slow and pain- 
ful steps we sprang at once, by the Declaration of Independ- 
ence, and by the establishment of free representative goveri^ 
ments ; governments borrowing more or less from the models of 
other free states, but strengthened, secured, improved in their 
symmetry, and deepened in their foundation, by those great 
men of our own country whose names will be as familiar to fu- 
ture times as if they were written on the arch of the sky. 

Through all this history of the contest for liberty, executive 
power has been regarded as a lion which must be caged. So 
far from being the object of enlightened popular trust, so far 
from being considered the natural protector of popular right, it 
has been dreaded, uniformly, always dreaded, as the great source 
of its danger. 

And now. Sir, who is he, so ignorant of the history of liber- 
ty, at liome and abroad ; who is he, yet dwelling in his con- 
templations among the principles and dogmas of the Middle 
Ages ; who is he, from whose bosom all original infusion of 
American spirit has become so entirely evaporated and ex- 
haled, that he shall put into the mouth of the President of the 
United States the doctrine that the defence of liberty naluraUy 
results to executive power, and is its peculiar duty ? Who is he, 
that, generous and oonfiding towards power where it is most 
dangerous, and jealous only of those who can restrain it; who 
is he, that, reversing the order of the state, and upheaving the 
base, would poise the pyramid of the political system upon its 
apex ? Who is he, that, overlooking with contempt the guardi- 
anship of the representatives of the people, and with equal con- 
tempt the higher guardianship of the people themselves ; — who 
is he that declares to us, through the President's lips, that the 
security for freedom rests^in executive authority? Who is he 
that belies the blood and libeb the fame of his own anceatcNrs, 
by declaring that they^ with solemnity of form, and force of 
manner, have invoked the executive power to come to the pro- 
tection of liberty ? Who is he that thus charges them with the 


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Anity, or the recklessness, of putting the lamb beneath the 
lion's paw ? No, Sir. No, Sir. Our security is in our watch- 
fiilness of executive power. It was the constitution of this de- 
partment which was infinitely the most difficult part in the 
great work of creating our present government To give to the 
executive department such power as should make it useful, and 
yet not such as should render it dangerous ; to make it efficient, 
independent, and strong, and yet to prevent it from sweeping 
away every thing by its union of military and civil authority, 
by the influence of patronage, and office, and favor, — this, in- 
deed, was difficult. They who had the work to do saw the 
difficulty, and we see it ; and if we would maintain our system, 
we shall act wisely to that end, by preserving every restraint 
and every guard which the Constitution has provided. And 
when we, and those who come after us, have done all that we 
can do, and all that they can do, it will be well for us and for 
them, if some popular executive, by the power of patronage and 
party, and the power, too, of that very popularity, shall not 
hereafter prove an overmatch for all other branches of the gov- 

I do not wish. Sir, to impair the power of the President, as it 
stands written down in the Constitution, and as great and good 
men have hitherto exercised it In this, as in other respects, I 
am for the Constitution as it is. But I will not acquiesce in the 
reversal of all just ideas of government ; I will not degrade the 
chcuracter of popular representation ; I vrill not blindly confide, 
where all experience admonishes me to be jealous ; I will not 
trust executive power, vested in the hands of a single magis- 
trate, to be the guardian of liberty. 

Having claimed for the executive the especial guardianship of 
the Constitution, the Protest proceeds to present a summary 
view of the powers which are supposed to be conferred on the 
executive by that instrument And it is to this part of the mes- 
sage, Sir, that I would, more than to all others, call the particular 
altention of the Senate. I confess that it was only upon care- 
ful reperusal of the paper that I perceived the extent to which 
its assertions of power reach. I do not speak now of the Pres- 
ident's claims of power as opposed to legislative authority, but 
of his opinions as to his own authority, duty, and responsibility, 
as connected with all other officers under the government He 


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is of opinion that the whole executive power is vested in him, 
and that he is responsible for its entire exercise ; that among thfe 
duties imposed on him is that of " taking care that the laws be 
faithfully executed " ; and that, " being thus made responsible fat 
the entire action of the executive department, it is but reason- 
able that the power of appointing, overseeing, and controlling 
those who execute the laws, a power in its nature executive, 
should remain in his hands. It is, therefore, not only his right, 
but the Constitution makes it his duty, to * nominate, and, 
by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint,' 
all ' officers of the United States whose appointments are not 
in the Constitution otherwise provided for,' with a proviso that 
the appointment of inferior officers may be vested in the Pres- 
ident alone, in the courts of justice, or in the heads of depart- 

The first proposition, then, which the Protest asserts, in regard 
to the President's powers as executive magistrate, is, that, the 
general duty being imposed on him by the Constitution, of tak- 
ing care that the laws be faithfully executed, he thereby becomes 
himself responsible for the conduct of every person employed in 
the government ; " for the entire action," as the paper expresses 
it, " of the executive department." This, Sir, is very dangerous 
logic I reject the inference altogether. No such responsibility, 
nor any thing like it, follows from the general provision of the 
Constitution, making it his duty to see the laws executed. K it 
did, we should have, in fact, but one officer in the whole govern- 
ment. The President would be every body. And the Protest 
assumes to the President this whole responsibility for every 
other officer, for the very purpose of making the President every 
body, of annihilating every thing like independence, responsi- 
bility, or character^ in all other public agents. The whole re- 
sponsibility is assumed, in order that it may be more plausibly 
argued that all officers of government are, not agents of the 
law, but the President's agents, and therefore responsible to 
him alone. If he be responsible for the conduct of all offi- 
cers, and they be responsible to him only, then it may be main- 
tained that such officers are but his own agents, his substi- 
tutes, his deputies. The first thing to be done, therefore, is to 
assume the responsibility for all; and this, you will perceive, 
Sir, is done, in the fullest manner, in the passages which I have 


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read. Having thus assumed for the President the entire respon- 
sibility of the whole government, the Protest advances boldly to 
its conclusion, and claims, at once, absolute power over all indi- 
vidnals in office, as being merely the President's agents. This 
is the language : " The whole executive power being vested in 
tbe President, who is responsible for its exercise, it is a neces- 
sary consequence that he should have a right to employ agents 
of his own choice to aid him in the performance of his duties, 
and to discharge them when he is no longer willing to be re- 
sponsible for their acts." 

This, Sir, completes the work. This handsomely rounds off 
the whole executive system of executive authority. First, the 
President has the whole responsibility ; and then, being thus re- 
sponsible for all, he has, and ought to have, the whole power. 
We have heard of political units^ and our American executive, 
as here represented, is indeed a miii. We have a charmingly 
simple government ! Instead of many officers, in different de- 
partments, each having appropriate duties and each responsible 
for his own duties, we are so fortunate as to have to deal with 
but one officer. The President carries on the government; all 
the rest are but sub-contractors. Sir, whatever name we give 
him, we have but one executive officer. A Briareus sits in 
tbe centre of our system, and with his hundred hands touches 
every thing, moves every thing, controls every thing. I ask. Sir, 
b this republicanism? Is this a government of laws? Is this 
legal responsibility ? 

According to the Protest, the very duties which every officer 
under the government performs are the duties of the President 
himself. It says that the President has a right to employ agents 
of his own choice^ to aid him in the performance of his duties. 

Mr. President, if these doctrines be true, it is idle for us any 
longer to talk about any such thing as a government of laws. 
We have no government of laws, not even the semblance or 
shadow of it; we have no legal responsibility. We have an 
executive, consisting of one person, wielding all official power, 
and which is, to every effectual purpose, completely irresponsible. 
The Piresident declares that he is "responsible for the entire ac- 
tion of the executive department" Responsible ? What does 
he mean by being " responsible " ? Does he mean legal respon- 
sibility ? Certainly not No such thing. Legal responsibility 


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signifies liability to punishment for misconduct or maladminiB- 
tration. But the Protest does not mean that the President is 
liable to be impeached and punished if a secretary of state 
should commit treason, if a collector of the customs should be 
guilty of bribery, or if a treasurer should embezzle the public 
money. It does not mean, and cannot mean, that he should be 
answerable for any such crime or such delinquency. What, 
then, is its notion of that responsibility which it says the Presi- 
dent is under for all oiBScers, and which authorizes him to con- 
sider all officers as his own personal agents ? Sir, it is merely 
responsibility to public opinion. It is a liability to be blamed ; 
it is the chance of becoming unpopular, the danger of losing a 
reelection. Nothing else is meant in the world. It is the haz- 
ard of failing in any attempt or enterprise of ambition. This is 
all the responsibility to which the doctrines of the Protest hold 
the President subject. 

It is precisely the responsibility under which Cromwell acted 
when he dispersed Parliament, telling its members, not in so 
many words, indeed, that they disobeyed the will of their con- 
stituents, but telling them that the people were sick of them, and 
that he drove them out " for the glory of Grod and the good of 
the nation." It is precisely the responsibility upon which Bona- 
parte broke up the popular assembly of France. I do not mean, 
Sir, certainly, by these illustrations, to insinuate designs of vio- 
lent usurpation against the President; far from it; but I do 
mean to maintain, that such responsibility as that with which 
the Protest clothes him is no legal responsibility, no constitu- 
tional responsibility, no republican responsibility, but a mere 
liability to loss of office, loss of character, and loss of fame, if he 
shall choose to violate the laws and overturn the liberties of the 
country. It is such a responsibility as leaves every thing in his 
discretion and his pleasure. 

Sir, it exceeds human belief that any man should put senti- 
ments such as this paper contains into a public communication 
from the President to the Senate. They are sentiments which 
give us all one master. The Protest asserts an absolute right 
to remove all persons from office at pleasure ; and for what rea- 
son? Because they are incompetent? Because they are inca- 
pable? Because they are remiss, negligent, or inattentive? 
No, Sir; these are not the reasons. But he may discharge 


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tiiem, one and all, simply because ^ he is no longer willing to be 
responsible for their acts " ! It insists on an absolute right in 
the President to direct and control every act of every oflScer of 
the government, except the judges. It asserts this right of di- 
rect control over and over again. The President may go into the 
treasury, among the auditors and comptrollers, and direct them 
how to settle every man's account ; what abatements to make 
from one, what additions to another. He may go into the cus- 
tom-house, among collectors and appraisers, and may control 
estimates, reductions, and appraisements. It is true that these 
officers are sworn to discharge the duties of their respective 
offices honestly and fairly, according to their own best abilities ; 
it is true, that many of them are liable to indictment for official 
misconduct, and others responsible, in suits of individuals, for 
damages and penalties, if such official misconduct be proved ; 
but notwithstanding all this, the Protest avers that all these offi- 
cers are but the Presidents agents; that they are but aiding him 
in the discharge of his duties ; that he is responsible for their 
conduct, and that they are removable at his will and pleasure. 
And it is under this view of his own authority that the Presi- 
dent calls the Secretaries his Secretaries, not once only, but re- 
peatedly. After half a century's administration of this govern- 
ment. Sir; — after we have endeavored, by statute upon statute, 
and by provision following provision, to define and Umit official 
authority; to assign particular duties to particulaur public ser- 
vants ; to define those duties ; to create penalties for their viola- 
tion ; to adjust accurately the responsibility of each agent with 
his own powers and his own duties ; to establish the prevalence 
of equal rule ; to make the law, as far as possible, every thing, 
and individual will, as far as possible, nothing; — after all this, 
the astounding assertion rings in our ears, that, throughout 
the whole range of official agency, in its smallest ramifications 
as well as in its larger masses, there is but one responsibility, 
ONE DISCRETION, ONE WILL ! Truc indeed is it. Sir, if these sen- 
timents be maintained, — true indeed is it that a President of the 
United States may well repeat from Napoleon what he repeat- 
ed from Louis the Fourteenth, " I am the state ! " 

The argument by which the writer of the Protest endeavors 
to establish the President's claim to this vast mass of accumu- 
lated authority, is founded on the provision of the ConstitutioDi 


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that the executive power shall be vested in the President No 
doubt the executive power is vested in the President ; but what 
and how much executive power, and how limited? To this 
question I should answer, ^ Look to the Constitution, and see ; 
examine the particulars of the grant, and learn what that execu- 
tive power is which is given to the President, either by express 
words or by necessary implication." But so the writer of this 
Protest does not reason. He takes these words of the Constitu- 
tion as being, of themselves, a general original grant of all exec- 
utive power to the President, subject only to such express lim- 
itations as the Constitution prescribes. This is clearly the 
writer's view of the subject, unless, indeed, he goes behind the 
Constitution altogether, as some expressions would intimate, to 
search elsewhere for sources of executive power. Thus, the Pro- 
test says that it is not only the riffht of the President, but that 
the Constitution makes it his duty, to appoint persons to office ; 
as if the right existed before the Constitution had created the 
dulp. It speaks, too, of the power of removal, not as a power 
granted by the Constitution, but expressly as " an original exec- 
utive power, left unchecked by the Constitution." How origi- 
nal ? Coming from what source higher than the Constitution ? 
I should be glad to know how the President gets possession of 
any power by a title earlier, or more original^ than the grant of 
the Constitution ; or what is meant by an original power, which 
the President possesses, and which the Constitution has left un- 
checked in his hands. The truth is. Sir, most assuredly, that 
the writer of the Protest, in these passages, was reasoning upon 
the British constitution, and not upon the Constitution of the 
United States. Indeed, he professes to found himself on au- 
thority drawn from the constitution of England. I will read, 
Sir, the whole passage. It is this : — 

" In strict accordance with this principle, the power of removal, which, 
like that of appointment, is an original executive power, is left un- 
checked by the Constitution in relation to all executive officers, for 
whose conduct the President is responsible ; while it is taken from him 
in relation to judicial officers, for whose acts he is not responsible. In 
the government from which many of the fundamental principles of our 
system are derived^ the head of tJie executive department originally had 
power to appoint and remove at will all officers^ executive and judicial. 
It was to take the judges out of this general power of removal, and thus 


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make them independent of the executive, that the tenure of their offices 
was changed to good behavior. Nor is it conceivable why they are 
placed, in our Constitution, upon a tenure different from that of all other 
officers appointed by the executive, unless it be for the same purpose." 

Mr. President, I do most solemnly protest (if I, too, may be 
permitted to make a protest) against this mode of reasoning. 
The analogy between the British constitution and ours, in this 
respect, is not close enough to guide us safely ; it can only mis- 
lead us. It has entirely misled the writer of the Protest The 
President is made to argue, upon this subject, as if he had some 
right anterior to the Constitution, which right is by that instru- 
ment checked, in some respects, and in other respects is left 
unchecked, but which, nevertheless, still derives its being from 
another source ; just as the British king had, in the early ages 
of the monarchy, an uncontrolled right of appointing and remov- 
ing all officers at pleasure, but which right, so far els it respects 
the judges, has since been checked and controlled by act of Par- 
liament ; the right being original and inherent, the check only 
im]>osed by law. Sir, I distrust altogether British precedents, 
authorities, and analogies, on such questions as this. We are 
not inquiring how far our Constitution has imposed checks on a 
preexisting authority. We are inquuring what extent of power 
that Constitution has granted. The grant of power, the whole 
source of power, as well as the restrictions and limitations which 
are imposed on it, is made in and by the Constitution. It has 
no other origin. And it is this, Sir, which distinguishes our 
system so very widely and materially from the systems of Eu- 
rope. Our governments are limited governments; limited in 
their origin, in their very creation ; limited, because none but 
specific powers were ever granted, either to any department of 
government, or to the whole : theirs are limited, whenever lim- 
ited at all, by reason of restraints imposed at different times on 
governments originally unlimited and despotic Our American 
questions, therefore, must be discussed, reasoned on, decided, 
and settled, on the appropriate principles of our own constitu- 
tions, and not by inapplicable precedents and loose analogies 
drav^Ti from foreign states. 

Mr. President, in one of the French comedies, as you know, 
in which the dulness and prolixity of legal argument is intended 
to be severely satirized, while the advocate is tediously groping 


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among ancient lore having nothing to do with his case, the 
judge grows impatient, and at last cries out to him to come dovm 
to the flood ! I really wish. Sir, that the writer of this Protest, 
since he was discussing matters of the highest importance to us 
as Americans, and which arise out of our own peculiar Consti- 
tution, had kept himself, not only on this side the general deluge, 
but also on this side the Atlantic. I desire that the broad 
waves of that wide sea should continue to roll between us and 
the influence of those foreign principles and foreign precedents 
which he so eagerly adopts. 

In asserting power for an American President, I prefer that he 
should attempt to maintain his assertions on American reasons. 
I know not. Sir, who the writer was (I wish I did) ; but whoever 
he was, it is manifest that he argues this part of his case, 
throughout, on the principles of the constitution of England. 
It is true, that, in England, the king is regarded as the original 
fountain of all honor and all office ; and that anciently, indeed, 
he possessed all political power of every kind. It is true that 
this mass of authority, in the progress of that government, has 
been diminished, restrained, and controlled, by charters, by im- 
munities, by grants, and by various modifications, which the 
friends of liberty have, at different periods, been able to obtain 
or to impose. All liberty, as we know, all popular privileges, as 
indeed the word itself imports, were formerly considered as 
favors and concessions from the monarch. But whenever and 
wherever civil freedom could get a foothold, and could maintain 
itself, these favors were turned into rights. Before and during 
the reigns of the princes of the Stuart family, they were ac- 
knowledged only as favors or privileges graciously allowed, 
although even then, whenever opportunity offered, as in the 
instance to which I alluded just now, they were contended for as 
rights ; and by the Revolution of 1688 they were acknowledged 
as the rights of Englishmen, by the prince who then ascended 
the throne, and as the condition on which he was allowed to sit 
upon it But "s^ath us there never was a time when we ac- 
knowledged original, unrestrained, sovereign power over us. 
Our constitutions are not made to limit and restrain preexisting 
authority. They are the instruments by which the people con- 
fer power on their own servants. If I may use a legal phrase, 
the people are grantors, not grantees. They give to the govem- 


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meot, and to each branch of it, all the power it possesses, or can 
possess ; and what is not given they retain. In England, before 
her revolution, and ii. che rest of Europe since, if we would 
know the extent of liberty or popular right, we must go io 
grants, to charters, to allowances, and indulgences. But with 
us, we go to grants and to constitutions to learn the extent of 
the powers of government No political power b more original 
than the Ck)nstitution ; none is possessed which is not there 
granted ; and the grant, and the limitations in the grant, are in 
the same instrument. 

The powers, therefore, belonging to any branch of our govern- 
ment, are to be construed and settled, not by remote analogies 
drawn from other governments, but from the words of the grant . 
itself, in their plain sense and necessary import, and according 
to an interpretation consistent with our own history and the 
spirit of our own institutions. I will never agree that a Presi- 
dent of the United States holds the whole undivided power of 
office in his own hands, upon the theory that he is responsible 
for the entire action of the whole body of those engaged in car- 
rying on the government and executing the laws. Such a 
responsibility is purely ideal, delusive, and vain. There is, there 
can be, no substantial responsibility, any further than every indi- 
vidual is answerable, not merely in his reputation, not merely in 
the opinion of mankind, but to the law, for the faithful discharge 
of bis own appropriate duties. Again and again we hear it 
said that the President is responsible to the American people ! 
that he is responsible to the bar of public opinion ! For what- 
ever he does, he assumes accountability to the American people ! 
For whatever he omits, he expects to be brought to the high bar 
of public opinion ! And this is thought enough for a limited, 
restrained, republican government! an undefined, undefinable, 
ideal responsibility to the public judgment ! 

Sir, if aU this mean any thing, if it be not empty sound, it 
means no less than that the President may do any thing and 
every thing which he may expect to be tolerated in doing. lie 
may go just so far as he thinks it safe to go ; and Cromwell 
and Bonaparte went no farther. I ask again, Sir, Is this legal 
responsibility ? Is this the true nature of a government with 
written laws and limited powers ? And allow me. Sir, to ask, 
too, if an executive magistrate, while professing to act under the 


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Constitution, b restrained only by this responsibility to public 
opinion, what prevents him, on the same responsibility, from 
proposing a change in that Constitution ? Why may he not 
say, " I am about to introduce new forms, new principles, and 
a new spirit ; I am about to try a political experiment on a great 
scale ; and when I get through with it, I shall be responsible to 
the American people, I shall be answerable to the bar of public 
opinion " ? 

Connected, Sir, with the idea of this airy and unreal responsi- 
bility to the public is another sentiment, which of late we hear 
frequently expressed ; and that is, that the President is the direct 
representative of the American peopk. This is declared in the 
Protest in so many words. " The President," it says, " is the 
direct representative of the American people.^^ Now, Sir, this is 
not the language of the Constitution. The Constitution no- 
where calls him the representative of the American people ; still 
less, their direct representative. It could not do so with the 
least propriety. He is not chosen directly by the people, but by 
a body of electors, some of whom are chosen by the people, and 
some of whom are appointed by the State legislatures. Where, 
then, is the authority for saying that the President is the direct 
representative of the people ? The Constitution calls the mem- 
bers of the other house Representatives, and declares that they 
shall be chosen by the people ; and there are no other direct or 
immediate representatives of the people in this government. 
The Constitution denominates the President simply the Presi- 
dent of the United States; it points out the complex mode of 
electing him, defines his powers and duties, and imposes limits 
and restraints on his authority. With these powers and duties, 
and under these restraints, he becomes, when chosen, President 
of the United States. That is his character, and the denomina- 
tion of his office. How is it, then, that, on this official character, 
thus cautiously created, limited, and defined, he is to engraft 
another and a very imposing character, namely, the character of 
the direct representative of the American people? 1 hold this. Sir, 
to be mere assimiption, and dangerous assumption. If he is the 
representative of all the American people, he is the only repre- 
sentative which they all have. Nobody else presumes to repre^ 
sent all the people. And if he may be allowed to consider 
himself as the sole bepresentative op all tue American 


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PBOPLE, and is to act under no other responsibility than such 
as I have already described, then I say, Sir, that the govern- 
ment (I will not say the people) has already a master. I deny 
the sentiment, therefore, and I protest against the language; 
neither the sentiment nor the language is to be found in the 
Constitution of the country; and whoever is not satisfied to 
describe the powers of the President in the language of the 
Constitution may be justly suspected of being as little sat- 
isfied with the powers themselves. The President is President. 
His office and his name of office are known, and both are 
fixed and described by law. Being commander of the army 
and navy, holding the power of nominating to office and re*> 
moving from office, and being by these powers the fountain 
of all patronage and all favor, what does he not become if he 
be allowed to superadd to aU this the character of single repre- 
sentative of the American people? Sir, he becomes what 
America has not been accustomed to see, what this Constitu- 
tion has never created, and what I cannot contemplate but with 
profound alarm. He who may call himself the single repre* 
tentative of a nation, may speak in the name of the nation, may 
undertake to wield the power of the nation; and who shall 
gainsay him in whatsoever he chooses to pronounce to be the 
nation's will ? 

I will now, Sir, ask leave to recapitulate the general doctrines 
of this Protest, and to present them together. They arc, — 

That neither branch of the legislature can take up, or consider, 
for the purpose of censure, any official act of the President^ 
without some view to legislation or impeachment; 

That not only the passage, but the discussion, of the resolu- 
tion of the Senate of the 28th of March, was unauthorized by 
the Constitution, and repugnant to its provisions ; 

That the custody of the public treasury always must be in- 
trusted to the executive ; that Congress cannot take it out of hia 
hands, nor place it anywhere except under such superintendents 
and keepers as are appointed by him, responsible to him, and re- 
movable at his will ; 

That the whole executive power is in the President, and that 
flierefore the duty of defending the integrity of the Constitu- 
tion results to him from the very nature of his office ; and that 
the founders of our republic have attested their sense of the im- 

OL. IV. 13 


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portance of this duty, and, by expressing it in his official oath, 
have given to it peculiar solemnity and force ; 

That, as he is to take care that the laws be faithfully exe- 
cuted, he is thereby made responsible for the entire action of the 
executive department, with the power of appointing, overseeing, 
and controlling those who execute the laws ; 

That the power of removal from office, like that of appoint- 
ment, is an original executive power, and is left in his hands 
unchecked by the Constitution, except in the case of judges ; 
that, being responsible for the exercise of the whole executive 
power, he has a right to employ agents of his own choice to 
assist him in the performance of his duties, and to discharge 
them when he is no longer willing to be responsible for their 

That the Secretaries are Aw Secretaries, and all persons ap- 
pointed to offices created by law, except the judges, his agents, 
responsible to him, and removable at his pleasure ; 

And, finally, that he is the direct representative of the Amer- 
ican people. 

These, Sir, are some of the leading propositions contained in 
the Protest; and if they be true, then the government under 
which we live is an elective monarchy. It is not yet absolute ; 
there are yet some checks and limitations in the Constitution 
and laws ; but, in its essential and prevailing character, it is an 
elective monarchy. 

Mr. President, I have spoken fireely of this Protest, and of the 
doctrines which it advances; but I have spoken deliberately. 
On these high questions of constitutional law, respect for my 
own character, as well as a solemn and profound sense of duty, 
restrains me from giving utterance to a single sentiment which 
does not flow from entire conviction. I feel that I am not 
wrong. I feel that an inborn and inbred love of constitutional 
liberty, and some study of our political institutioi^s, have not on 
this occasion misled me. But I have desired to say nothing 
that should give pain to the chief magistrate personaUy. I 
have not sought to fix arrows in his breast; but I believe him 
mistaken, altogether mistaken, in the sentiments which be has 
expressed; and I must concur with others in placing on the 
records of the Senate my disapprobation of those sentiments. 
On a vote which is to remain so long as any proceeding of the 


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Senate shall last, and on a question which can never cease to 
be important while the Constitution of the country endures, I 
have desired to make public my reasons. They will now be 
known, and I submit them to the judgment of the present and 
of after times. Sir, the occasion is full of interest It cannot 
pass off without leaving strong impressions on the character of 
public men. A collision has teiken place which I could have 
most anxiously wished to avoid ; but it was not to be shunned. 
We have not sought this controversy ; it has met us, and been 
forced upon us. In my judgment, the law has been disregard- 
ed, and the Constitution transgressed ; the fortress of liberty has 
been assaulted, and circumstances have placed the Senate in 
the breach ; and, although we may perish in it, I know we shall 
not fly from it But I am fearless of consequences. We shall 
hold on. Sir, and hold out, till the people themselves come to its 
defence. We shall raise the alarm, and maintain the post, till 
they whose right it is shall decide whether the Senate be a fac- 
tion, wantonly resisting lawful power, or whether it be opposing, 
with firmness and patriotism, violations of liberty and inroads 
upon the Constitution. 


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In the Senate, June 27th, 1634, the report of the Committee on the 
condition of the General Post-Office, and the resolutions with which the 
report concludes, having been taken up and debated by several gentle- 
men, Mr. Webster, in conclusion, made the following remarks : — 

Mr. President, — G^reat credit is doe to the committee for 
the labor, diligence, and ability which its members have be- 
stowed on the subject referred to them. They have now made 
a report of a very serious character, containing explicit charges 
of maladministration, and accompanied by the evidence on 
which those charges are founded. Two members of the com- 
mittee have made a report, or presented a paper, of their own, 
in which they undertake in some instances to defend, and in 
others to excuse, the conduct of the Postmaster-Greneral, and 
other persons employed in the department Now, Sir, in an 
affair so complicated, where there are so many charges and so 
much evidence, the first question to be asked is, Are any of these 
charges admitted to be true by the friends of the administra- 
tion, and, if any, which? And, as to the rest of the charges, 
are they all denied or contradicted, or are some of them, and, if 
any, which, left without denial or contradiction? The honor- 
able chairman of the committee,! who does not agree in the 
report of the committee, but who is one of the two memberd 
who signed the other paper, called the report of the minority, 
has addressed the Senate repeatedly on the subject of these 
charges. Some of them he has objected to ; others he has not 
attempted to rebut; and of others he has said nothing. The 

* Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the Aflairs of the 
General Post-Office, on the 97ih of June, 1834. 
t Mr. Gtundy. 


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honorable gentleman is fidendly to the administration, and to 
the head of the Post-OflSce Department ; and it was, therefore, 
hardly to be expected that he should show great zeal in the pros- 
ecution of this inquiry. Yet I think. Sir, we had a right to ex- 
pect from him, not only his opinion on all the charges, but also 
some degree of patriotic indignation against lawless acts, which 
he admits to be lawless. Take, for example, the first resolution 
of the committee, which declares that the Postmaster-General 
has borrowed money on the credit of the United States, without 
any authority of law. The honorable chairman says he admits 
the truth of this charge. Admits it? But why does he con- 
tent himself with admitting it? Does he not regard it as a 
gross violation of duty? Does he not think it an alarming 
thing, that the Postmaster-Gteneral should borrow half a million 
of dollars in order to cover up the deficiencies of the depart- 
ment, and that he should keep this loan concealed for years 
from the knowledge of Congress ? As the head of a committee 
diarged to inquire into abuses, and this enormous abuse having 
been discovered, can the honorable member justify himself by 
simply saying he admits its existence ? Has he no reproof, no 
word of censure, for such a flagrant violation of law? Has he 
DO disapprobation to express, no complaint to enter, in such 
tones that the administration shall hear them ? No man denies 
the fact, and none undertakes to defend it What then ? Is the 
department still to go on in its career, and nothing to be done^ 
any more than if nothing had been discovered ? If there were 
nothing else in the whole report, if that charge stood alone, I can- 
not conceive how any man can doubt that the department ought 
to be immediately and thoroughly reformed. The country, if I 
mistake not, will call for such reformation. As to upholding the 
administration of the department, with such charges against it 
proved and admitted, it is more even than the spirit of party de- 
votion can accomplish. 

Again, Sir, the third resolution distinctly declares that a prac- 
tice prevails in the post-office of granting contracts on bids, 
which vary from the advertisements, and of altering contracts 
after they are made and accepted; a practice which destroys 
aB competition, and enables the department to give all eon* 
tracts to favorites. Is this charge denied or admitted ? I baT« 
not heard the honorable member, the chairman, deny it Does 


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he acknowledge it to be trae ? If he does, why does he not tell 
as, in a plain and direct manner, that this too is an enormoas 
abuse, and ought to be reformed ? Is such a practice to pass 
without reprehension ? While its existence is detected, discov- 
ered, and acknowledged, is there to be no rebuke of it ? 

Then there is the sixth resolution, which declares that extra 
allowances have been made to contractors, which are unreason- 
able and extravagant, and out of all proportion with the increase 
of service. Is this true ? 

The eleventh resolution alleges, in general terms, that the de- 
partment is deeply in debt, and its affairs in disorder. I have 
heard no man deny this. None can deny it The department 
is deeply in debt; its affairs are disordered, greatly disordered. 
These extra allowances appear to have lost their original charac- 
ter. Instead of being extraordinary, they have become ordinary. 
Contractors calculate upon them. The probability of an extra 
allowance enters into their motives when they make bids. In- 
deed, it seems of very little importance what bids they make. 
They are, in fact, paid just what sums the Postmaster-Greneral 
sees fit to pay ; and they are generally very well satisfied. From 
the frequency and the amount of these extras, and the constant 
changing of contracts, it is quite evident that all fair competition 
among contractors is done away. 

Mr. President, the country is awakened to these abuses in the 
post-ofBce, and it will not be, and ought not to be, satisfied 
without a thorough examination, and an honest and real reform. 
I give my hearty thanks to the committee for their zeal and in- 
dustry. They have had a laborious winter, and are likely to 
have a laborious summer. Let them go on fearlessly, and the 
country will appreciate their services. 

Let them explore all the sources of corrupt patronage; let 
them bring all abuses into the broad light of day. Let them 
inquire into the number of removals of postmasters, with the 
alleged causes of such removals. Let them inquire at whose 
bidding honest and faithful men have been removed, to make 
way for partisans. Let them ascertain whether it be true that 
persons here may go into the post-oJ95ce, and require the removal 
of postmasters by dozens ; and whether the Postmaster-Greneral, 
as a matter of course, complies with such requisitions. 

Mr. President, it is due to the committee, it is due to the Sen- 


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ate itself, it is due to this highly important subject, that we 
should express an opinion on some of the leading resolutions 
reported by the committee. If some are more doubtful than 
the rest, or require further examination, let tliem remain for fur- 
ther consideration. But on the plain, acknowledged, notorious 
cases, let us come to a vote. Let us show the country that we 
are in earnest Let us begin with the first, with that which 
respects the borrowing of money from banks, without author- 
ity of law, or even the knowledge of Congress; and let us 
see whether any one individual member of the Senate is pre- 
pared to withhold from that proceeding his vote of censure. 

Mr. Benton thought the Senate ought to defer, for the present, taking 
a yote on the resolutions. He said he had had no opportunity of care- 
fully examining the reports, and therefore knew but little of their con- 
tents. However, he must say that he had found things in them at 
which he felt much mortified. Mr. Webster continued : — 

I think. Sir, the best course, that which is called for by the 
importance of the subject, and which is due as well to the com- 
mittee as the Senate, is this, — to take a vote on the first resolu- 
tion. I will then move to lay the others upon the table, until 
snch time as gentlemen shall have had an opportunity of exam- 
ining them, when I will move that they be taken up. 

The question was then taken on agreeing to the first resolution re- 
ported by the Post-Office Committee, in the following words: — 

''*' Resolved^ That it is proved, and admitted, that large sums of money 
have been borrowed at difierent banks by the Postmaster-Greneral, in 
order to make up the deficiency in the means of carrying on the busi- 
ness of the Post-Office Department, without authority given by any law 
of Congress ; and that, as Congress alone possesses Ae power to bor- 
row money on the credit of the United States, all such contracts for 
bans by the Postmaster-General are illegal and void." 

And the question on agreeing to this resolution was decided unani- 
mously in the affirmative. 


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Mr. President, — Before proceeding to the discnssion of the 
bill, I feel it to be my duty to take notice of an occurrence such 
as does not ordinarily draw from me any remarks in my place 
in the Senate. Some time in March last, there appeared in a 
newspaper published at Albany, in the State of New York, a 
letter, purporting to have been written to the editor from Wash- 
ington, in which the writer charges me with having a direct 
personal interest in these claims. I am ashamed to say, that 
this letter was written by a member of Congress. The assertion, 
like many others which I have not felt it to be my duty to take 
any notice of, was wholly and entirely false and malicious. I 
have not the slightest interest in these claims, or any one of 
them. I have never been^ conferred with or retained by any 
one, or spoken to as counsel, for any of them, in the course of 
my life. No member of the Senate is more entirely free from 
any personal connection with the claims than I am. It has 
been the pleasure of the Senate, on several occasions, to place 
me on a committee to which these petitions have been referred. 
I have on those occasions examined the subject with a desire 
to acquit myself conscientiously of my duty^ by exercising my 
best judgment upon the claims, as questions of mere right and 

At the last session, an honorable member of the Senate, now 
in a public capacity at St Peter8burg,f introduced a bill for the 
relief of the petitioners, and moved the appointment of a com- 

* A Soeech delivered in the Senate on the 13th of Jannary, 1835, on the Bill 
granting indemnity to Citizens of the United States for Freooh Spoliations on 
American Commerce prior to 1800. 

f Mr. Wilkins of rennsylvania. 


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mittee, declining himself to be a member of that committee. 
Without any wish of mine, and, indeed, without my knowledge, 
for I was not then in the city, the Senate was pleased to place 
me at the head of that committee. I thought it my duty then 
to introduce the bill which is now again under consideration. 

This is no party question; it involves no party (Mrinciples, 
affects no party interests, seeks no party ends or objects ; and 
as it is a question of private right and justice, it would be fla- 
grant wrong and injustice to attempt to give to it, anjnvhere, 
the character of a party measure. The petitioners, the sufferers 
under the French spoliations, belong to all parties. Gentlemen 
of distinction, of all parties, have at different times maintained 
the justice of the claim. The present bill is intended for the 
equal relief of all sufferers ; and if the measure shall become a 
party measure, I for one shall not pursue it It will be vnser 
to leave it till better auspices shall appear. 

The question. Sir, involved in this case is essentially a judi- 
dal question. It is not a question of public policy, but a ques- 
tion of private right; a question between the government and 
tlie petitioners ; and, as the government is to be judge in its 
own case, it would seem to be the duty of its members to ex- 
amine the subject with the most scrupulous good faith, and the 
most solicitous desire to do justice* 

There is a propriety in commencing the examination of these 
daims in the Senate, because it was the Senate which, by its 
amendment of the convention of 1800, and its subsequent ratifi- 
cation of that convention, and its recognition of the declaration of 
the French government, effectually released the claims as against 
Prance, and for ever cut off the petitioners from all hopes of re- 
dress from that quarter. The claims, as claims against our own 
government, have their foundation in these acts of the Senate 
itself; and it may certainly be expected that the Senate will 
consider the efiect of its own proceedings on private right and 
private interests with that candor and justice whioh belong to 
its high character. 

It ought not to be objected to these petitionersi that their 
djdm is old, or that they arc now reviving any thing which has 
heretofore been abandoned. There has been no delay which is 
not reasonably accounted for. The convention, by which the 
claimants say their claims on France for these captures and con- 


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fiscations were released, was concluded in 1800. They immedi- 
ately applied to Congress for indemnity, as will be seen by the 
report made in 1802 in the House of Bepresentatives, by a 
committee of which a distinguished member from Virginia, not 
now living,* was chairman. 

In 1807, on the petition of sundry merchants and others, citi- 
zens of Charleston, in South Carolina, a committee of the House 
of Representatives, of which Mr. Marion of that State was chair- 
man, made a report, declaring that the committee was of opin- 
ion that the government of the United States was bound to 
indemnify the claimants. But at this time our affairs with the 
European powers at war had become exceedingly embarrassed ; 
our government had felt itself compelled to withdraw our com- 
merce from the ocean ; and it was not until after the conclusion 
of the war of 1812, and after the general pacification of Europe, 
that a suitable opportunity occurred of presenting the subject 
again to the serious consideration of Congress. From that time 
the petitioners have been constantly before us, and the period 
has at length arrived proper for a final decision of their case. 

Another objection. Sir, has been urged against these claims, 
well calculated to diminish the favor with which they might oth- 
erwise be received, and which is without any substantial founda- 
tion in fact. It is, that a great portion of them has been bought 
up, as a matter of speculation, and is now held by these pur- 
chasers. It has even been said, I think, on the floor of the Sen- 
ate, that nine tenths, or ninety-nine hundredths, of all the claims 
are owned by speculators. 

Such unfounded statements are not only unjust towards these 
petitioners themselves, but they do great mischief to other inter- 
ests. I have observed that a French gentleman of distinction, 
formerly a resident in this country, is represented in the public 
newspapers as having declined the offer of a seat in the French 
administration, on the ground that he could not support the late 
convention between the United States and France; and he 
could not support that convention because he had learned, or 
heard, while in America, that the claims were no longer the 
property of the original suflerers, but had passed into unworthy 
hands. If any such thing has been learned in the United States. 

• Mr. Giles. 


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H ba« been learned from sources entirely incorrect The gen- 
eral fact is not so ; and this prejudice, thus operating on a great 
national interest, an interest in regard to which we are in dan- 
ger of being seriously embroiled with a foreign state, was 
created, doubtless, by the same incorrect and unfounded as- 
sertions which have been made relative to this other class of 

In regard to both classes, and to all classes of claims of Amer- 
ican citizens on foreign governments, the statement is at vari- 
ance with the facts. Those who make it have no proof of 
it. On the contrary, incontrovertible evidence exists of the 
truth of the very reverse of this statement The claims against 
Prance, since 1800, are now in the course of adjudication. 
They are all, or very nearly all, presented to the proper tribunaL 
Proofs accompany them, and the rules of the tribunal require 
that, in each case, the true ownership shall be fully and ex- 
actly set out, on oath, and be proved by the papers, vouchers, 
and other evidence. Now, Sir, if any man is acquainted, or 
will make himself acquainted, with the proceedings of this tri- 
bunal, so far as to see who are the parties claiming the indem- 
nity, he will see the absolute and enormous error of those 
who represent these claims to be owned, in great part, by spec- 

The truth is. Sir, that these claims, as well those since 1800 
as before, are owned and possessed by the original sufferers, 
with such changes only as happen in regard to all other prop- 
erty. The original owner of ship and cargo ; his representative, 
where such owner is dead ; underwriters, who have paid losses, 
on account of captures and confiscations ; and creditors of in- 
solvents and bankrupts, who were interested in the claims, — 
these are the descriptions of persons who, in all these cases, 
own vastly the larger portion of the claims. This is true of 
the claims on Spain, as is most manifest from the proceed- 
ings of the commissioners under the Spanish treaty. It is true 
of the claims on France arising since 1800, as is equally mani- 
fest by the proceedings of the commissioners now sitting ; and 
it is equally true of the claims which are the subject of this dis- 
cussion, and provided for in this bill. In some instances, claims 
have been assigned from one to another, in the settlement of 
Camily affairs. They have been transferred, in other instances, 


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to secure or to pay debts ; they have been transferred, some- 
times, in the settlement of insurance accounts ; and it is proba* 
ble there are a few cases in which the necessities of the holden 
have compelled them to sell them. But nothing can be farther 
from the truth, than that they have been the general subjects of 
purchase and sale, and that they are now held mainly by pur- 
chasers from the original owners. They have been compared to 
the old, unfunded debt of the Revolution. But that consisted 
in scrip, of fixed amount, and which passed from hand to hand 
by delivery. These claims cannot so pass from hand to hand. 
In each case, not only the value, but the amount, is uncertain. 
Whether there be any claim is, in each case, a matter for inves- 
tigation and proof; and so is the amount, when the justice of 
the claim itself is established. These circumstances are of them- 
selves quite sufficient to prevent the easy and frequent transfer 
of the claims from hand to hand. They would lead us to ex- 
pect that to happen which actually has happened ; and that is, 
that the claims remain with their original owners, and their legal 
heirs and representatives, with such exceptions as I have already 
mentioned. As to the portion of the claims now owned by 
underwriters, it can hardly be necessary to say, that they stand 
on the same equity and justice as if possessed and presented by 
the owners of ships and goods. There is no more universal 
maxim of law and justice, throughout the civilized and commer- 
cial world, than that an underwriter, who has paid a loss on 
ships or merchandise to the owner, is entitled to whatever may 
be received from the property. His right accrues by the very 
act of payment ; and if the property, or its proceeds, be after- 
wards recovered, in whole or in part, whether the recovery be 
from the sea, from captors, or from the justice of foreign states, 
such recovery is for the benefit of the underwriter. Any attempt, 
therefore, to prejudice these claims, on the ground that many of 
them belong to insurance companies, or other underwriters, i« 
at war with the first principles of justice. 

A short but accurate general view of the history and charac- 
ter of these claims is presented in the report of the Secretary of 
State,* on the 20th of May, 1826, in compliance with a resolu- 
tion of the Senate. Allow me. Sir, to read the paragraphs. 

• Mr. Clay. 


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" The Secretary can hardly suppose it to have been the intention of 
the resolution to require the expression of an argumentative opinion as 
to the degree of responsibility, to the American sufferers from French 
spoliations, which the convention of 1800 extinguished on the part of 
France, or devolved on the United States, the Senate itself being most 
competent to decide that question. Under this impression, he hopes 
that he will have sufficiently conformed to the purposes of the Senate, 
by a brief statement, prepared in a hurried moment, of what he under- 
stands to be the question. 

" The second article of the convention of 1800 was in the following 
words : * The ministers plenipotentiary of the two parties not being 
able to agree at present respecting the treaty of alliance of the 6th of 
February, 1T78, the treaty of amity and commerce of the same date, 
and the convention of the 14th of November, 1788, nor upon the in- 
demnities mutually due or claimed, the parties will negotiate further on 
these subjects at a convenient time ; and until they may have agreed 
upon these points, the said treaties and convention shall have no opera- 
tion, and the relations of the two countries shall be regulated as fol- 

" When that convention was laid before the Senate, it gave its consent 
and advice that it should be ratified, provided that the second article be 
expunged, and that the following article be added or inserted: 'It is 
agreed that the present convention shall be in force for the term of eight 
years from the time of the exchange of the ratifications ' ; and it was 
accordingly so ratified by the President of the United States, on the 18th 
day of February, 1801. On the 3ist of July of the same year, it was 
ratified by Bonaparte, First Consul of the French republic, who incor- 
porated into the instrument of his ratification the following clause, as part 
of it : ' The government of the United States having added to its rati- 
fication that the convention should be in force for the space of eight 
years, and having omitted the second article, the government of the 
French republic consents to accept, ratify, and confirm the above con- 
vention, with the addition importing that the convention shall be in forc6 
for the space of eight years, and with the retrenchment of the second 
article : Provided that, by this retrenchment, the two states renounce the 
respective pretensions which are the object of the said article,'^ 

"The French ratification, being thus conditional, was nevertheless 
exchanged against that of the United States, at Paris, on the same 31st 
of July. The President of the United States, considering it necessary 
again to submit the convention, in this state, to the Senate, on the 19t^ 
day of December, 1801, it was resolved by the Senate, that they consid- 
ered the said convention as fully ratified, and they returned it to th^ 
President for the usual promulgation. It was accordingly promulgated, 

VOL. IV. 14 


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and thereafter regarded as a valid and binding compact. The two con* 
tracting parties thus agreed, by the retrenchment of the second article, 
mutually to renounce the respective pretensions which were the object 
of that article. 

"The pretensions of the United States to which allusion is thus 
made arose out of the spoliations under color of French authority, 
in contravention of law and existing treaties. Those of France sprung 
from the treaty of alliance of the 6th of February, 1778, the treaty of 
amity and commerce of the same date, and the convention of the 14th 
of November, 1788. Whatever obligations or indemnities, from these 
sources, either party had a right to demand, were respectively waived 
and abandoned ; and the consideration which induced one party to re- 
nounce his pretensions was that of renunciation by the other party of 
his pretensions. What was the value of the obligations and indemnities 
so reciprocally renounced, can only be matter of speculation. The 
amount of the indemnities due to the citizens of the United States was 
very large ; and, on the other hand, the obligation was great (to specify 
no other French pretensions) under which the United States were placed 
in the eleventh article of the treaty of alliance of the 6th of February, 
1778, by which they were bound, for ever, to guaranty, from that time, 
the then possessions of the crown of France in America, as well as 
those which it might acquire by the future treaty of peace with Great 
Britain ; all these possessions having been, it is believed, conquered, at, 
or not long after, the exchange of the ratifications of the convention of 
September, 1800, by the arms of Great Britain, from France. 

" The fifUi article of the Amendments to the Constitution provides, 
' Nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compen- 
sation.' If the indemnities to which citizens of the United States were 
entitled for French spoliations, prior to the 30th of September, 1800, 
have been appropriated to absolve the Ignited States from the fulfilment 
of an obligation which they had contracted, or from the payment of 
indemnities which they were bound to make to France, the Senate is 
most competent to determine how far such an appropriation is a public 
use of private property within the spirit of the Constitution, and whether 
equitable considerations do not require some compensation to be made 
to the claimants. The Senate b also best able to estimate the proba- 
bility which existed of an ultimate recovery from France of the amount 
due for those indemnities, if they had not been renounced ; in making 
which estimate, it will, no doubt, give just weight to the painful consid- 
eration, that repeated and urgent appeals have been in vain made to the 
justice of France, for satisfaction of flagrant wrongs committed upon 
property of other citizens of the United States, subsequent to the period 
of the dOth of September, 1800.'' 


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Before the interference of our government with these claims, 
they constituted just demands against the government of France. 
They were not vague expectations of possible future indemnity 
for injuries received, too uncertain to be regarded as valuable, <Mr 
be esteemed property. They were just demands, and, as such, 
they were property. The courts of law took notice of them as 
property. They were capable of being devised, of being dis- 
tributed among heirs and next of kin, and of being transferred 
and assigned, like other legal and just debts. A claim or de- 
mand for a ship unjustly seized and confiscated is property, as 
dearly as the ship itself. It may not be so valuable, or so cer- 
tain ; but it is as clear a right, and has been uniformly so regarded 
by the courts of law. The papers show that American citizens 
had claims against the French government for six hundred and 
fifteen vessels, unlawfully seized and confiscated. If this were 
80, it is difficult to see how the government of the United States 
can release these claims for its own benefit, with any more pro- 
priety than it could have applied the money to its own use, if 
the French government had been ready to make compensation 
in money for the property thus illegally seized and confiscated; 
or how the government could appropriate to itself, without mak- 
ing compensation, the just claims which the owners of these six 
hundred and fifteen vessels held against the v^ong-doers, any 
more than it could appropriate to itself, without making com- 
pensation, six hundred and fifteen vessels which had not been 
seized. I do not mean to say that the rate of compensation 
should be the same in both cases ; I do not mean to say that a 
daim for a ship is of as much value as a ship ; but I mean to 
say that both the one and the other are property, and that gov- 
ernment cannot, with justice, deprive a man of either, for its 
own benefit, without making a fair compensation. 

It will be perceived at once, Sir, that these claims do not rest 
on the ground of any neglect or omission, on the part of the 
govciTiment of the United States, in demanding satisfaction 
firom France. This is not the ground. The government of the 
United States, in that respect, performed its full duty. It re- 
monstrated against these illegal seizures ; it insisted on redress ; 
it sent two special missions to France, charged expressly, among 
other duties, with the duty of demanding indemnity. But 
France had her subjects of complaint, also, against the govern- 


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ment of the United States, which she pressed with equal eaii- 
nestness and confidence, and which she would neither postpone 
nor relinquish, except on the condition that the United States 
would postpone or relinquish these claims. And, to meet this 
condition, and to restore harmony between the two nations, the 
United States did agree, first to postpone, and afterwards to 
relinquish, these claims of its own citizens. In other words, the 
government of the United States bought off the claims of France 
against itself, by discharging claims of our own citizens against 

This, Sir, is the ground on which these citizens think they 
have a claim for reasonable indemnity against their own gov- 
ernment And now. Sir, before proceeding to the disputed part 
of the case, permit me to state what is admitted. 

In the first place, then, it is universally admitted, that these 
petitioners once had just claims against the government of 
France, on account of these illegal captures and condemnations. 

In the next place, it is admitted, that these claims no longer 
exist against France ; that they have, in some way, been extin- 
guished or released, as to her; and that she is for ever dis- 
charged from all duty of paying or satisfying them, in whole or 
in part 

These two points being admitted, it is then necessary, in order 
to support the present bill, to maintain four propositions: — 

1. That these claims subsisted against France up to the time 
of the convention of September, 1800, between France and the 
United States. 

2. That they were released, surrendered, or extinguished by 
that convention, its amendment in the Senate, and the manner 
of its final ratification. 

3. That they were thus released, surrendered, or extinguished, 
for political and national considerations, for objects and pur- 
poses deemed important to the United States, but in which 
these claimants had no more interest than any other citizens. 

4. That the amount or measure of indemnity proposed by 
this bill is no more than a fair and reasonable compensation, so 
far as we can judge by what has been done in similar cases. 

These propositions I shall attempt briefly to establish. 
1. Were these claims subsisting against France up to the 
'jme of the treaty ? It is a conclusive answer to this question 


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to My, that the government of the United States insisted that 
they did exist, up to the time of the treaty, and demanded in- 
demnity for them, and that the French government fully admit- 
ted their existence, and acknowledged its obligation to make 
such indemnity. 

The negotiation which terminated in the convention was 
opened by a direct proposition for indemnity, made by our min- 
isters, the justice and propriety of which were immediately ac- 
ceded to by the ministers of France. 

On the 7th of April, 1800, in their first letter to the ministers 
of France, Messrs. Ellsworth, Davie, and Murray say : — 

" Citizen Ministers : The undersigned, appreciating the value of time, 
and wishing by frankness to evince their sincerity, enter directly upon 
the great object of their mission, an object which they believe may be 
best obtained by avoiding to retrace minutely the too well known and 
too painful incidents which have rendered a negotiation necessary. 

^^ To satbfy the demands of justice, and render a reconciliation cor- 
dial and permanent, they propose an arrangement, such as shall be com* 
patible with national honor and existing circumstances, to ascertain and 
discharge the equitable claims of the citizens of either nation upon tho 
other, whether founded on contract, treaty, or the law of nations. The 
way being thus prepared, the undersigned will be at liberty to stipulate 
for that reciprocity and freedom of commercial intercourse between the 
two countries, which must essentially contribute to their mutual ad- 

" Should this general view of the subject be approved by the ministers 
plenipotentiary to whom it is addressed, the details, it is presumed, may 
be easily adjusted, and that confidence restored which ought never to 
have been shaken." 

To this letter, the French ministers immediately returned the 
following answer : — 

" The ministers plenipotentiary of the French republic have read at- 
tentively the proposition for a plan of negotiation, which was communi- 
cated to them by the envoys extraordinary and ministers plenipotentiary 
of the United States of America. 

^' They think that the first object of the negotiation ought to be the 
determination of the regulations and the steps to be followed for the 
estimation and indemnification of injuries for which either nation may 
make claim for itself, or for any of its citizens ; and that the second ob- 
ject is, to assure the execution of treaties of friendship and commerce 
14 • 


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made between the two nations, and the accomplishment of the views of 
reciprocal advantages which suggested them.'^ 

It is certain, therefore, that the negotiation commenced in the 
recognition, by both parties, of the existence of individual claims, 
and of the justice of making satisfaction for them ; and it is 
equally clear, that, throughout the whole negotiation, neither 
party suggested that these claims had already been either satis- 
fied or extinguished ; and it is indisputable that the convention 
itself, in the second article, expressly admitted their existence, 
and solemnly recognized the duty of providing for them at some 
future period. 

It will be observed, Sir, that the French negotiators, in their 
first letter, while they admit the justice of providing indemnity 
for individual claims, bring forward, also, claims arising under 
treaties ; taking care, thus early, to advance the pretensions of 
France on account of alleged violations by the United States of 
the treaties of 1778. On that part of the case, I shall say some- 
thing hereafter ; but I use this first letter of the French ministers 
at present only to show that, from the first, the French govern- 
ment admitted its obligation to indemnify individuals who had 
suffered wrongs and injuries. 

The honorable member from New York * contends, Sir, that, 
at the time of concluding the convention, these claims had 
ceased to exist He says that a war had taken place between 
the United States and France, and by the war the claims had 
become extinguished. I differ from the honorable member, both 
as to the fact of war, and as to the consequences to be deduced 
from it, in this case, even if public war had existed. If we ad- 
mit, for argument's sake, that war had existed, yet we find that, 
on the restoration of amity, both parties admit the justice of 
these claims, and their continued existence ; and the party 
against which they are preferred acknowledges her obligation, 
and expresses her willingness, to pay them. The mere fact of 
war can never extinguish any claim. If, indeed, claims for in- 
demnity be the professed ground of war, and peace be afterwards 
concluded without obtaining any acknowledgment of the right, 
such a peace may be construed to be a relinquishment of the 
right, on the ground that the question has been put to the arbi- 

• Mr. Wright. 


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tration of the sword, and decided. But, if a war be waged to 
cDforce a disputed claim, and it be carried on till the adverse 
party admit the claim, and agree to provide for its payment, 
it would be strange indeed to hold that the claim itself was 
extinguished by the very war which had compelled its express 
recognition. Now, whatever we call that state of things which 
existed between the United States and France from 1798 to 
1800, it is evident that neither party contended or supposed that 
it liad been such a state of things as had extinguished individ- 
ual clainns to indemnification for illegal seizures and confisca- 

The honorable member, Sir, to sustain his point, must prove 
that the United States went to war to vindicate these claims ; 
that they waged that war unsuccessfully ; and that they were 
therefore glad to make peace, without obtaining payment of the 
claims, or any admission of their justice. I am happy, Sir, to 
say, that, in my opinion, facts do not authorize any such record 
to be made up against the United States. I think it is clear. 
Sir, that, whatever misunderstanding existed between the United 
States and France, it did not amount, at any time, to open and 
public war. It is certain that the amicable relations of the two 
countries were much disturbed; it is certain that the United 
States authorized armed resistance to French captures, and the 
eaptures of French vessels of war found hovering on our coast; 
but it is certain, also, not only that there was no declaration of 
war, on either side, but that the United States, under all their 
provocations, never authorized general reprisals on French com- 
merce. At the very moment when the gentleman says war 
raged between the United States and France, French citizens 
came into our courts, in their own names claimed restitution 
for property seized by American cruisers, and obtained decrees 
of restitution. They claimed as citizens of France, and obtained 
rentitution in our courts as citizens of France. It must have 
been a singular war, Sir, in which such proceedings could take 
place. Upon a fair view of the whole matter, Mr. President, it 
will be found, I think, that every thing done by the United 
States was defensive. No part of it was ever retaliatory. The 
United States did not take justice into their own hands. 

The strongest measure, perhaps, adopted by Congress, was 
the act of the 28th of May, 1798. The honorable member from 


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New York has referred to this act, and chiefly reJies upon it to 
prove the existence, or the commencement, of actual war. But 
does it prove either the one or the other? 

It is not an act declaring war; it is not an act authorizing 
reprisals ; it is not an act which, in any way, acknowledges the 
actual existence of war. Its whole implication and import are 
the other way. Its title is, " An Act more effectually to protect 
the commerce and coasts of the United States." 

This is its preamble : — 

" Whereas armed vessels, sailing under authority, or pretence of au- 
thority, from the republic of France, have committed depredations on 
the commerce of the United States, and have recently captured the ves- 
sels and property of citizens thereof, on and near the coasts, in violation 
of the law of nations, and treaties between the United States and the 
French nation ; therefore," 

And then follows its only section, in these words : — 

"Sec. 1. Be it enacted^ ^c. That it shall be lawful for the Presi- 
dent of the United States, and he is hereby authorized, to instruct and 
direct the commanders of the armed vessels belonging to the United 
States to seize, take, and bring into any port of the United States, to be 
proceeded against according to the laws of nations, any such armed ves- 
sel which shall have committed, or which shall be found hovering on 
the coasts of the United States for the purpose of committing, depreda- 
tions on the vessels belonging to citizens thereof; and also retake any 
ship or vessel of any citizen or citizens of the United States, which may 
have been captured by any such armed vessel." 

This act, it is true, authorized the use of force, under certain 
circumstances and for certain objects, against French vessels. 
But there may be acts of authorized force ; there may be as- 
saults ; there may be battles ; there may be captures of ships 
and imprisonment of persons, — and yet no general war. Cases 
of this kind may occur under that practice of retortion which 
is justified, when adopted for just cause, by the laws and usages 
of nations, and which all the writers distinguish firom general 

The first provision in this law is purely preventive and defen- 
sive ; and the other hardly goes beyond it Armed vessels hov- 
ering on our coast, and capturing our vessels, under authority, 
or pretence of authority^ from a foreign state, might be captured 


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and brought in, and vessels already seized by them retaken. 
The act is limited to arvied vessels ; but why was this, if general 
war existed ? Why was not the naval power of the country let 
loose at once, if there was war, against the commerce of the 
enemy? The cruisers of France were preying on our com- 
merce ; if there was war, why were we restrained from general 
reprisals on her pommerce ? This restraining of the operation of 
our naval marine to armed vessels of France, and to such of 
them only as should be found hovering on our coast for the pur- 
pose of committing depredations on our commerce, instead of 
proving a state of war, proves, I think, irresistibly, that a state of 
general war did not exist But even if this act of Congress left 
the matter doubtful, other acts, passed at and near the same 
time, demonstrate the understanding of Congress to have been, 
that, although the relations between the two countries were 
greatly disturbed, yet war did not exist On the same day 
(May 28, 1798) in which this act passed, on which the member 
from New York lays so much stress as proving the actual exist- 
ence of war with France, Congress passed another act, entitled 
" An Act authorizing the President of the United States to raise 
a provisional army"; and the first section declared, that the 
President should be authorized, "m the event of a declaration 
of war against the United States, or of acttial invasion of their 
territory/ J by a foreign power, or of imminent danger of such invar 
non^'^ to cause to be enlisted ten thousand men. 

On the 16th of July following. Congress passed the law for 
augmenting the army, the second section of which authorized tl)e 
President to raise twelve additional regiments of infantry and 
six troops of light dragoons, " to be enlisted for and during the 
continuance of the existing differences between the United States 
and the French republic, unless sooner discharged." 

The following spring, by the act of the 2d of March, 1799, en- 
titled " An Act giving eventual authority to the President of the 
United States to augment the army," Congress provided that it 
should be lawful for the President of the United States, in case 
war should break out between the United States and a foreign 
European power, to raise twenty-four regiments of infantry. 
And in the act for better organizing the army, passed the next 
day, Congress repeats the declaration contained in a former act, 
that certain provisions shall not take effect unless war shall 


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break otU between the United States and some European prince^ 
potentate^ or state. 

On the 20th of February, 1800, an act was passed to suspend 
the act for augmenting the army, and this last act declared, that 
further enlistments should be suspended until the further order 
of Congress, unless^ in the recess of Congress^ and during' the con- 
tinuance of the existing differences between the United States and 
the French republic^ war should break out between the United 
States and t/ie French republic^ or imminent danger of invasion 
of their territory by the said republic should be discovered. 

On the 14th of May, 1800, four months before the conclusion 
of the convention. Congress passed an act authorizing the suspen- 
sion of military appointments, and the discharge of troops raised 
under the provisions of the previous laws. No commentary is 
necessary on the texts of these statutes, to show that Con- 
gress never recognized the existence of war between the United 
States and France. They apprehended war might break out ; 
and they made suitable provision for that exigency, should it 
occur ; but it is quite impossible to reconcile the express and so 
often repeated declarations of these statutes, commencing in 
1798, running through 1799, and ending in 1800, with the actual 
existence of war between the two countries, at any period with- 
in those years. 

The honorable member's second principal source of argument, 
to make out the fact of a state of war, is the several non-inter- 
course acts. And here, again, it seems to me, an exactly oppo- 
site inference is the true one. In 1798, 1799, and 1800, acts of 
Congress were passed suspending the commercial intercourse 
between the United States and France, each for one year. Did 
any government ever pass a law of temporary non-intercourse 
with a public enemy ? Such a law would be little less than an 
absurdity. War itself effectually creates non-intercourse. It 
renders all trade with the enemy illegal, and of course subjects 
all vessels so engaged, with their cargoes, to capture and con- 
demnation, as enemy's property. The first of these laws was 
passed June 13th, 1798 ; the last, February 27th, 1800. Will the 
honorable member from New York tell us when the war com- 
menced? When did it break out? When did those "differ- 
ences," of which the acts of Congress speak, assume a character 
of general hostility? Was there a state of war on the 13th of 


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Jane, 1798, when Congress passed the first non-intercourse act? 
and did Congress, in a state of public war, limit non-intercourse 
with the enemy to one year ? Or was there a state of peace in 
June, 1798 ? And if so, I ask again, At what time after that 
period, and before September, 1800, did the war break out? 
Difficulties of no small magnitude surround ^the gentleman, I 
think, whatever course he takes through these statutes, while he 
attempts to prove firom them a state of war. The truth is, they 
prove, incontestably, a state of peace; a state of endangered, 
disturbed, agitated peace, but still a state of peace. Finding 
themselves in a state of great misunderstanding and contention 
with France, and seeing our commerce a daily prey to the rapa- 
city of her cruisers, the United States preferred non-intercourse 
to war. This is the ground of the non-intercourse acts. Appre- 
hending, nevertheless, that war might break out. Congress made 
pradent provision for it, by augmenting the military force of the 
country. This is the ground of the laws for raising a provision- 
al army. The entire provisions of all these laws necessarily 
suppose an existing state of peace ; but they imply also an ap- 
prehension that war might commence. For a state of actual 
war they were all unsuited ; and some of them would haye been, 
in such a state, preposterous and absurd. To a state of present 
peace, but disturbed, interrupted, and likely to terminate in open 
hostilities, they were all perfectly well adapted. As many of 
these acts, in express terms, speak of war as not actually exist- 
ing, but as likely or liable to break out, it is clear, beyond all 
reasonable question, that Congress never, at any time, regarded 
the state of things existing between the United States and 
Prance as being a state of war. 

As little did the executive government so regard it, as must 
be apparent from the instructions given to our ministers, when 
the mission was sent to France. Those instructions, having 
recurred to the numerous acts of wrong committed on the com- 
merce of the United States, and the refusal of indemnity by the 
government of France, proceed to say : " This conduct of the 
French republic would well have justified an immediate decla- 
ration of war on the part of the United States ; but, desirous of 
maintaining peace, and still vnlling to leave open the door of rec^ 
onciUaliofi ivilk France, the United States contented themselves 
with preparations for defence, and measures calculated to protect 
their commerce." 


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It is equally clear, on the other hand, that neither the French 
government, nor the French ministers, acted on the supposition 
that war had existed between the two nations. It was for thia 
reason that they held the treaties of 1778 still binding. Within 
a month or two of the signature of the convention, the min- 
isters plenipotentiary of the French republic write thus to 
Messrs. Ellsworth, Davie, and Murray : " In the first place, they 
will insist upon the principle already laid down in their former 
note; namely, that the treaties which united France and the 
United States are not broken ; that even war could not have 
broken them ; but that the state of misunderstanding which has 
existed for some time between France and the United States, 
by the act of some agents rather than by the will of the re- 
spective governments, has not been a state of war^ at least on 
the side of France." 

Finally, Sir, the convention itself, what is it? It is not called 
a treaty of peace; it does not provide for putting an end tc 
hostilities. It says not one word of any preceding war ; but it 
does say that " differences " have arisen between the two stateS; 
and that they have therefore respectively appointed their pleni- 
potentiaries, and given them full powers to treat upon those 
" differences," and to terminate the same. 

But the second article of the treaty, as negotiated and agreed 
on by the ministers of both governments, is of itself a complete 
refutation of the whole argument which is urged against this 
bill, on the ground that the claims had been extinguished by 
war; since that article distinctly and expressly acknowledges 
the existence of the claims, and contains a solemn pledge that 
the two governments, not being able to agree on them at pres- 
ent, will negotiate further on them at a convenient future time. 
Whether we look, then, to the decisions of the American courts, 
to the acts of Congress, to the instructions of the American 
executive government, to the language of our ministers, to the 
declarations of the French government and the French minis- 
ters, or to the unequivocal language of the convention itself, as 
originally agreed to, we meet irresistible proof of the truth of 
the declaration, that the state of misunderstanding which had 
existed between the two countries was not war. 

If the convention had remained as the ministers on both sides 
Agreed upon it, the claimants, though their indemnity was post/- 


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poned, would have had no just claim on their own government 
But the convention did not remain in this state. The second 
article was struck out by the Senate ; and in order to see the 
obvious motive of the Senate in this omission, allow me to read 
the whole article. It is in these words: — 

" The ministers plenipotentiary of the two parties, not being able to 
agree, at present, respecting the treaty of alliance of the 6th of Febru- 
ary, 1778, the treaty of amity and commerce of the same date, and 
the convention of the 14th of November, 1788, nor upon the indem- 
nities mutually due or claimed, the parties will negotiate further on 
these subjects at a convenient time ; and until they may have agreed 
upon these points, the said treaties and convention shall have no opera- 
tion, and the relations of the two countries shall be regulated as follows.^* 

The article thus stipulating to make the claims of France 
under the old treaties matter of further negotiation, in order to 
get rid of such negotiation, and the whole subject, the Senate 
struck out the entire article, and ratified the convention in this 
corrected form. France ratified the convention as thus amended, 
with the further declaration, that, by thus retrenching the sec- 
ond article, the two nations, renoimce the respective pretensions 
which were the object of the article. In this declaration of 
the French government, the Senate afterwards acquiesced ; so 
that the government of France, by this retrenchment, agreed 
to renounce her claims under the treaties of 1778, and the 
United States, in like manner, renounced the claims of their cUu 
zens for indemnities due to them. 

And this proves. Sir, the second proposition which I stated at 
the commencement of my remarks ; namely, that these claims 
were released, relinquished, or extinguished by the amendment of 
the convention, and its ratification as amended. It is only neces- 
sary to add, on this point, that these claims for captures before 
1800 would have been good claims under the late convention 
with France, and would have come in for a dividend in the 
fund provided by that convention, if they had not been released 
by the convention of 1800. They are now excluded from all 
participation in the benefit of the late convention, because of 
such release or extinguishment by that of 1800. 

In the third place. Sir, it is to be proved, if it be not proved 
already, that these claims were surrendered, or released, by the 
government of the United States, on national considerations, 

VOL. IV. 15 


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and for objects in which these claimants had no more interest 
than any other citizens. 

Now, Sir, I do not feel called on to make out that the daims 
and complaints of France against the government of the United 
States were well founded. But it is certain that she put forth 
3uch claims and complaints, and insisted on them to the end. 
It is certain, that, by the treaty of alliance of 1778, the United 
States did guaranty to France her West India )>os8essions. It 
is certain, that, by the treaty of commerce of the same date, 
the United States stipulated that French vessels of war might 
bring their prizes into the ports of the United States, and that 
the enemies of Fmnce should not enjoy that privilege; and it 
is certain that France contended that the United States had 
plainly violated this article, as well by their subsequent treaty 
with England as by other acts of the government. For the 
violation of these treaties she claimed indemnity from the gov- 
ernment of the United States. Without admitting the justice 
of these pretensions, the government of the United States found 
them extremely embarrassing, and they authorized our minis- 
ters in France to buy them off by money. 

For the purpose of showing the justice of the present bill, it 
is not necessary to insist that France was right in these preten- 
sions. Right or wrong, the United States were anxious to get 
rid of the embarrassments which they occasioned. They were 
willing to compromise the matter. The existing state of things, 
then, was exactly this : — 

France admitted that citizens of the United States had just 
claims against her ; but she insisted that she, on the other hand, 
had just claims against the government of the United States. 
She would not satisfy our citizens till our government agreed 
to satisfy her. Finally, a convention is ratified, by which the 
claims on both sides are renounced. 

The only question is, whether the relinquishment of these in- 
dividual claims was the price which the United States paid for 
the relinquishment by France of her claims against our govern- 
ment. And who can doubt it ? Look to the negotiation. The 
claims on both sides were discussed together* Look to the 
second article of the treaty, as originally agreed to. The claims 
on both sides are there reserved together ; and look to the Sen- 
ate's amendment, and to the subsequent declaration of the 


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French government, acquiesced in by the Senate ; and there the 
claims on both sides are renounced together. What stronger 
proof could there be of mutuality of consideration ? Sir, allow 
me to put this direct question to the honorable member from 
New York, If the United States did not agree to renounce 
these claims in consideration that France would renounce hers, 
what was the reason why they surrendered thus the claims of 
their own citizens ? Did they do it without any consideration at 
all? Was the surrender wholly gratuitous? Did they thus 
solenmly renounce claims for indemnity, so just, so long insisted 
on by themselves, the object of two special missions, the subject 
of so much previous controversy, and at one time so near being 
tiie cause of open war, — did the government surrender and re- 
nounce them gratuitously, or for nothing ? Had it no reason- 
able motive in the relinquishment? Sir, it is impossible to 
maintain any such grouqd. 

And, on the other hand, let me ask. Was it for nothing that 
France relinquished, what she had so long insisted on, the obli- 
gation of the United States to fulfil the treaties of 1778? For 
the extinguishment of this obligation we had already offered her 
a large sum of money, which she had declined. Was she now 
willing to give it up, without any equivalent ? 

Sir, the whole history of the negotiation is full of proof that 
the individual claims of our citizens, and the government claims 
of France against the United States, constituted the respective 
demands of the two parties. They were brought forward to- 
gether, discussed together, insisted on together. The French 
ministers would never consent to separate them. While they 
admitted in the fullest manner the claims on our side, they 
maintained, with persevering resolution, the claims on the side 
of France. It would fatigue the Senate were I to go through 
the whole correspondence, and show, as I could easily do, that, 
in every stage of the negotiation, these two subjects were kept 
together. I will only refer to some of the more prominent and 
decisive parts. 

In the first place, the general insixuctions which our ministers 
received from our own government, when they undertook the 
roissioii, directed them to insist on the claims of American citi- 
zens against France, to propose a joint board of commissioners, 
to state those claims, and to agree to refer the complaints of 


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France, for infringements of the treaty of commerce, to the same 
board. I will read. Sir, so much of the instructions as compre- 
hend these points. 

" First. At the opening of the negotiation, you will inform the French 
ministers, that the United States expect from France, as an indispensa- 
ble condition of the treaty, a stipulation to make to the citizens of the 
United States full compensation for all losses and damages which they 
shall have sustained by reason of irregular or illegal captures or con- 
denmations of their vessels and other property, under color of authority 
or commissions from the French republic or its agents. And all cap- 
tures and condemnations are deemed irregular or illegal, when contrary 
to the law of nations generally received and acknowledged in Europe, 
and to the stipulations in the treaty of amity and commerce of the 6th 
of February, 1778, fairly and ingenuously interpreted, while that treaty 
remained in force. 

"Second. If these preliminaries should be satisfactorily arranged, 
then, for the purpose of examining and adjusting all the claims of our 
citizens, it will be necessary to provide for the appointment of a board 
of commissioners, similar to that described in the sixth and seventh arti- 
ticles of the treaty of amity and commerce between the United States 
and Great Britain. 

" As the French government have heretofore complained of infringe- 
ments of the treaty of amity and commerce by the United States, 
or their citizens, all claims for injuries thereby occasioned to France or 
its citizens are to be submitted to the same board ; and whatever dama^ 
ges they award will he allowed by the United States^ and deducted from 
the sums awarded to he paid by France,^'* 

Now, Sir, suppose this board had been constituted, and sup- 
pose that it had made awards against France, in behalf of citi- 
zens of the United States, and had made awards also in favor 
of the government of France against the government of the 
United States ; and then these last awards had been deducted 
from the amount of the former, and the property of citizens thus 
applied to discharge the public obligations of the country, would 
any body doubt that such citizens would be entitled to indem- 
nity? And are they less entitled, because, instead of being first 
liquidated and ascertained, and then set off, one against the 
other, they are finally agreed to be set off against each other, and 
mutually relinquished in the lump ? 

Acting upon their instructions, it will be seen that the Ameri- 


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can ministers made an actaai offer to suspend the claim for 
indemnities, till France should be satisfied as to her political 
rights under the treaties. On the 15th of July, they made this 
proposition to the French negotiators : — 

^^ lodeomities to be ascertained, and secured, in the manner pro- 
posed in our project of a treaty, but not to be paid until the United States 
shall have offered to France an article stipulating free admission, in the 
ports of each, for the privateers and prizes of the other, to the exclusion 
of thftir enemies.^^ 

This, it will be at once seen, was a direct offer to suspend the 
dahns of our own citizens till our government should be will- 
ing to renew to France the obligation of the treaty of 1778. 
Was not this an offer to make use of private property for public 

On the 11th of August, the FVench plenipotentiaries thus 
write to the noijidsters of the United States : — 

'* The propositions which the French ministers have the honor to com- 
municate to the ministers plenipotentiary of the United States are re- 
duced to this simple alternative : — 

" Either the ancient treaties, with the privileges resulting from priori 
itj, and a stipulation of reciprocal indemnities ; 

'' Or a new treaty, assuring equality, without indemnity. ^^ 

In other words, this offer is, " If you will acknowledge or re- 
new the obligation of the old treaties, which secure to us privi- 
leges in your ports which our enemies are not to enjoy, then we 
will make indemnities for the losses of your citizens ; or, if you 
will give up all claim for such indemnities, then we will relin- 
quish our especial privileges under the former treaties, and agree 
to a new treaty, which shall only put us on a footing of equality 
with Great Britain, our enemy.'^ 

On the 20th of August, our ministers propose, that the for- 
mer treaties, so far as they respect the rights of privateers, shall 
be renewed, but that it shall be optional with the United States, 
by the payment, withio seven years, of three millions of francs, 
cither in money or in securities issued by the French government 
far indemnities to our citizens^ to buy off this obligation, or to 
buy off ail its political obligations, under both the old treaties, 
by paymeot m like manner of five millions of francs. 
15 • 


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On the 4th of September, the French ministers submit thene 
propositions : — 

^^ A commission shall regulate the indemnities which either of the 
Iwo nations may owe to the citizens of the other. 

" The indemnities which shall be due by France to the citizens of the 
United States shall be paid for by the United States, and in return for 
which France yields the exclusive privilege resulting from the seven- 
teenth and twenty-second articles of the treaty of commerce^ and from 
the rights of guaranty of the eleventh article of the treaty of alliance.^* 

The American ministers considered these propositions as 
inadmissible. They however, on their part, made an approach 
to them, by proposing, in substance, that it should be left op- 
tional with the United States, on the exchange of the ratifica- 
tion, to relinquish the indemnities, and in that case the old trea- 
ties not to be obligatory on the United States, so far as they con- 
ferred exclusive privileges on France. This will be seen in the 
letter of the American ministers of the 6th of September. 

On the 18th of September, the American mmisters say to 
those of France: — 

" It remains only to consider the expediency of a temporary arrange- 
ment. Should such an arrangement comport with the views of France, 
the following principles are offered as the basis of it : — 

" 1st. The ministers plenipotentiary of the respective parties, not be- 
ing able at present to agree respecting the former treaties and indemni- 
ties, the parties will, in due and convenient time, further treat on those 
subjects ; and until they shall have agreed respecting the same, the said 
treaties shall have no operation.^^ 

This, the Senate will see, is substantially the proposition 
which was ultimately accepted, and which formed the second 
article of the convention. By that article, these claims, on both 
sides, were postponed for the present; and afterwards, by other 
acts of the two governments, they were mutually and for ever 
renounced and relinquished. 

And now. Sir, if any gentleman can look to the convention, 
look to the instructions under which it was concluded, look to 
the correspondence which preceded it, and look to the subsequent 
agreement of the two governments to renounce claims, on both 
sides, and not admit that the property of these private citizenB 


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has been taken to buy off embarrassing claims of France on 
the government of the United States, I know not what other 
or further evidence could ever force that conviction on his 

I will conclude this part of the case by showing you how this 
matter was understood by the American administration which 
finally accepted the convention, with this renouncement of in- 
demnities. The convention was negotiated in the administra- 
tion of Mr. Adams. It was amended in the Senate, as already 
stated, and ratified on the 3d day of February, 1801, Mr. Ad- 
ams being still in office. Being tiius ratified, with the amend- 
ment, it was sent back to France, and on the 31st day of July 
the First Consul ratified the convention, as amended, by striking 
out the second article, but accompanied the ratification with this 
declaration : " Provided that by this retrenchment the two 
states renounce their respective pretensions, which are 
the object op the said article." 

With this declaration appended, the convention came back to 
the United States. Mr. Jefferson had now become President, 
and Mr. Madison was Secretary of State. In consequence of 
the declaration of the French government accompanying its 
ratification, and now attached to it, Mr. Jefferson again referred 
the convention to the Senate, and on the 19th of December, 
1801, the Senate resolved that they considered it as duly rati- 
fied. Now, Sir, in order to show what Mr. Jefferson and his 
administration thought of this convention, and the effect of its 
ratification, in its then existing form, I beg leave to read an ex- 
tract from an official letter from Mr. Madison to Mr. Pinkney, 
then our minister in Spain. Mr. Pinkney was at that time nego- 
tiating for the adjustment of our claims on Spain ; and, among 
others, for captures committed within the territories of Spain, 
by French subjects. Spain objected to these claims, on the 
ground that the United States had claimed redress of such inju- 
ries from France. In writing to Mr. Pinkney (under date of 
February 6, 1804), and commenting on this plea of Spahi, Mr. 
Madison says: — 

" The plea on which it seems the Spanish government now principally 
relies, is the erasure of the second article from our late convention with 
France, by which France was released from the indemnities due for 
spoliations committed under her immediate responsibility to the United 


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States. This plea did not appear in the early objections of Spain to our 
claims. It was an after-thovght, resulting from the insufficiency of every 
other plea, and is certainly as little valid as any other. 

" The injuries for which indemnities are claimed from Spain, though 
committed by Frenchmen, took place under Spanish authority ; Spain, 
therefore, is answerable for them. To her we have looked, and con- 
tinue to look, for redress. If the injuries done to us by her resulted in 
any manner from injuries done to her by France, she may, if she 
pleases, resort to France as we resort to her. But whether her resort 
to France would be just or unjust is a question between her and France ; 
not between either her and us, or us and Frwice. We claim against 
her, not against France. In releasing France, therefore, we have not 
released her. The claims, again, from which France was released, 
were admitted by France, and the release was for a valuable consider- 
ation in a correspondent release of the United States from certain claims 
on them. The claiins we make on Spain were never admitted by 
France, nor made on France by the United States ; they made, there- 
fore, no part of the bargain with her, and could not be included in the 

Certainly, Sir, words could not have been used which should 
more clearly affirm that these Individual claims, these private 
rights of property, had been applied to public uses. Mr. Madi* 
son here declares, unequivocally, that these claims had been 
admitted by France ; that they were relinquished by the gov- 
ernment of the United States ; that they were relinquished for 
a valuable consideration ; that that consideration was a corre- 
spondent release of the United States from certain claims on 
them ; and that the whole transaction was a bargain between 
the two governments. This declaration, Sir, be it remembered, 
was made little more than two years after the final promul- 
gation of the convention; it was made by the Secretary of 
State under that administration which gave effect to the con- 
vention in its amended form; and it proves beyond mistake, 
and beyond doubt, the clear judgment which that administra- 
tion had formed u)>on the true nature and character of the 
whole transaction. 

I have said nothing, Sir, of the Louisiana convention, because 
neither that convention, nor any thing done under it, affects this 
question in the slightest degree. Great mistakes, I am aware, 
have existed on this point The honorable member from New 
York candidly acknowledged that he himself had partaken in 


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this misapprehension ; but as he, and others who have opposed 
the bill, admit that the convention which accompanied the 
Louisiana treaty is not connected with this subject at all, I will 
not detain the Senate with remarks upon it Suffice it to say, 
that the demands provided for by that convention were only 
certain debts arising in contract, or from detention of vessels 
by embargo, and for certain vessels not condemned at the date 
of the convention of 1800, and that none of them arose from 
illegal captures and condemnations. And the Senate will see, 
that, to avoid all ambiguity on that point, this bill expressly ex- 
cludes from its provisions all claims which were paid, in whole 
or in part, under that convention. 

It only remains to show the reasonableness of the amount 
which the bill proposes to distribute. And this, it must be ad- 
mitted, can only be fixed by estimate, and this estimate may be 
fonned in various ways. So far as can be learned from official 
reports, there are something more than six hundred vessels, with 
their cargoes, which are supposed to form claims under this 
bill. Some of them, it is probable, may not be good claims ; 
but a very great majority of that number will be, no doubt, just 
and fair cases. 

Then the question is. What may be regarded as a just aver- 
age value of each vessel and cargo? And this question is 
answered, in a manner as satisfactory as the nature of the case 
allows, By ascertaining the average value of vessels and cargoes 
for which compensation has been awarded under the treaty with 
Spain. That average was sixteen thousand eight hundred dol- 
lars for each vessel and cargo ; and, taking the cases coming 
under this bill to be of the same average value, the whole 
amount of loss would exceed ten millions of dollars, without 

On this estimate, it seems not unreasonable to allow the sum 
of five millions in full satisfaction for all claims. There is no 
ground to 8up)>08e that the claimants will receive, out of this 
sum, a greater rate of indemnity than claimants have received 
who had claims against Spain, or than other claimants against 
France, whose claims have not been relinquished, because aris- 
ing since 1800, wiU receive, under the provisions of the late 
French convention. 
Mr. President, I have performed the duty of explaining this 


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case to the Senate, as I understand it I believe the claims to 
be as just as were ever presented to any government. 1 think 
they constitute an honest and well-founded debt, due by the 
United States to these claimants ; a debt which, I am persuaded, 
the justice of the government, and the justice of the country, 
will one day both acknowledge and honorably discharge. 


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Mr. President, — The professed object of this biU is the re- 
duction of executive influence and patronage. I concur in the 
propriety of that object Having no wish to diminish or to con- 
trol, in the slightest degree, the constitutional and legal author- 
ity of the presidential office, I yet think that the indirect and 
rapidly increasing influence which it possesses, and which arises 
from the power of bestowing office and of taking it away again 
at pleasure, and from the manner in which that power seems 
now to be systematically exercised, is productive of serious evils. 

The extent of the patronage springing from this power of ap- 
pointment and removal is so great, that it brings a dangerous 
mass of private and personal interest into operation in all great 
public elections and public questions. This is a mischief which 
has reached, already, an alarming height. The principle of re- 
pablican governments, we are taught, is public virtue; and 
whatever tends either to corrupt this principle, to debase it, or 
to weaken its force, tends, in the same degree, to the final over- 
throw of such governments. Our representative systems sup- 
pose, that, in exercising the high right of suffrage, the greatest 
of all political rights, and in forming opinions on great public 
measures, men will act conscientiously, under the influence of 
public principle and patriotic duty; and that, in supporting or 
opposing men or measures, there will be a general prevalence of 
honest, intelligent judgment and manly independence. These 
presumptions lie at the foundation of all hope of maintaining 

* A Speech on the Appointing and Remoting Power, delirered in the Senate 
^the United States, on the ItHh of February, 1835, on the Passage of the Bill 
entitled ** An Act to repeal the First and Second Sections of the Act to limit 
•ht Term of Service of certain Officers therein named." 


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governments entirely popular. Whenever personal, individual, 
or selfish motives influence the conduct of individuals on public 
questions, they affect the safety of the whole system. When 
these motives run deep and wide, and come in serious conflict 
with higher, purer, and more patriotic purposes, they greatly 
endanger that system ; and all will admit that, if they become 
general and overwhelming, so that all public principle is lost 
sight of, and every election becomes a mere scramble for office, 
the system inevitably must fall. Every wise man, in and out 
of government, will endeavor, therefore, to promote the ascen- 
dency of public virtue and public principle, and to restrain as 
far as practicable, in the actual operation of our institutions, the 
influence of selfish and private interests. 

I concur with those who think, that, looking to the present, 
and looking also to the future, and regarding all the probabili- 
ties that await us in reference to the character and qualities of 
those who may fill the executive chair, it is important to the 
stability of government and the welfare of the people that there 
should be a check to the progress of oflScial influence and pat- 
ronage. The unlimited power to grant oflSce, and to take it 
away, gives a command over the hopes and fears of a vast mul- 
titude of men. It is generally true, that he who controls anoth- 
er man's means of living controls his will. Where there are 
favors to be granted, there are usually enough to solicit for 
them; and when favors once granted may be withdrawn at 
pleasure, there is ordinarily little security for personal independ- 
ence of character. The power of giving office thus affects the 
fears of all who are in, and the hopes of all who are out Those 
who are out endeavor to distinguish themselves by active politi- 
cal friendship, by warm personal devotion, by clamorous sup- 
port of men in whose hands is the power of reward ; while those 
who are in ordinarily take care that others shall not surpass 
them in such qualities or such conduct as are most likely to se- 
cure favor. They resolve not to be outdone in any of the works 
of partisanship. The consequence of all this is obvious. A 
competition ensues, not of patriotic labors ; not of rough and se- 
vere toils for the public good ; not of manliness, independence, 
and public spirit; but of complaisance, of indiscriminate support 
of executive measures, of pliant subserviency and gross adula- 
tion. All throng and rush together to the altar of man-worship; 


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and there they offer sacrifices, and pour out libations, till the 
thick fames of their incense turn their own heads, and turn, also, 
the head of him who is the object of their idolatry. 

The existence of parties in popular governments is not to be 
avoided ; and if they are formed on constitutional questions, or 
in regard to great measures o( public policy, and do not run to 
excessive length, it may be admitted that, on the whole, they do 
no great harm. But the patronage of office, the power of be- 
stowing place and emoluments, creates parties, not upon any 
principle or any measure, but upon the single ground of per- 
sonal interest. Under the direct influence of this motive, they 
form round a leader, and they go for " the spoils of victory." 
And if the party chieftain becomes the national chieftain, he is 
still but too apt to consider all who have opposed him as enemies 
to be punished, and all who have supported him as friends to be 
rewarded. Blind devotion to party, and to the head of a party, 
thus takes place of the sentiment of generous patriotism and 
a high and exalted sense of public duty. 

Let it not be said. Sir, that the danger from executive pat- 
ronage cannot be great, since the persons who hold office, or 
can hold office, constitute so small a portion of the whole 

In the first place, it is to be remembered that patronage acts, 
not only on those who actually possess office, but on those also 
who expect it, or hope for it ; and in the next place, office-hold- 
ers, by their very situation, their public station, their connection 
with the business of individuals, their activity, their ability to 
help or to hurt according to their pleasure, their acquaintance 
with public affairs, and their zeal and devotion, exercise a degree 
of influence out of all proportion to their numbers. 

Sir, we cannot disregard our own experience. We cannot 
shut our eyes to what is around us and upon us. No candid 
man can deny that a great, a very great change has taken place, 
within a few years, in the practice of the executive government, 
which has produced a corresponding change in our political 
condition. No one can deny that office, of every kind, is now 
sought with extraordinary avidity, and that the condition, well 
understood to be attached to every officer, high or low, is indis- 
criminate support of executive measures and implicit obedience 
to executive wilL For these reasons, Sir, I am for arresting the 

VOL. IV. 16 


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further progress of this executive patronage, if we can arrest it 
I am for staying the further contagion of this plague. 

The bill proposes two measures. One is to alter the duration 
of certain offices, now limited absolutely to four years ; so that 
the limitation shall be qualified or conditional. If the officer is 
in default, if his accounts are not settled, if he retains or mis- 
applies the public money, information is to be given thereof, 
and thereupon his commission is to cease. But if his accounts 
are all regularly settled, if he collects and disburses the public 
money faithfully, then he is to remain in office, unless, for 
some other cause, the President sees fit to remove him. This is 
the provision of the bill. It applies only to certain enumerated 
officers, who may be called accounting officers ; that is to say, 
officers who receive and disburse the public money. Formerly, 
all these officers held their places at the pleasure of the Presi- 
dent If he saw no just cause for removing them, they con- 
tinued in their situations, no fixed period being assigned for the 
expiration of their commissions. But the act of 1820 limited 
the commissions of these officers to four years. At the end of 
four years, they were to go out, without any removal, however 
well they might have conducted themselves, or however useful to 
the public their further continuance in office might be. They 
might be nominated again, or might not; but their commib- 
sions expired. 

Now, Sir, I freely admit that considerable benefit has arisen 
from this law. I agree that it has, in some instances, secured 
promptitude, diligence, and a sense of responsibility. These 
were the benefits which those who passed the law expected 
from it ; and these benefits have, in some measure, been real- 
ized. But I think that this change in the tenure of office, to- 
gether with some good, has brought along a far more than equiv- 
alent amount of eviL By the operation of this law, the Pteai*- 
dent can deprive a man of office without taking the responsibil- 
ity of removing him. The law itself vacates the office, and gives 
the means of rewarding a friend without the exercise of the 
power of removal at all. Here is increased power, with dimin- 
ished responsibility. Here is a still greater dependence, for the 
means of living, on executive favor, and, of course, a new do- 
minion acquired over opinion and over conduct The power of 
removal is, or at least formerly was, a suspected and odious 


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power. Public opinion would not always tolerate it ; and still 
less frequently did it approve it Something of character, some- 
thing of the respect of the intelligent and patriotic part of the 
community, was lost by every instance of its unnecessary exer- 
cise. This was some restraint But the law of 1820 took it all 
away. It vacated offices periodically, by its own operation, and 
thus added to the power of removal, which it left still existing 
in full force, a new and extraordinary facility for the extension 
of patronage, influence, and favoritism. 

I would ask every member of the Senate if he does not per- 
ceive, daily, effects which may be fairly traced to this cause. 
Does he not see a union of purpose, a devotion to power, a co- 
operation in action, among all who hold office, quite unknown 
in the earlier periods of the government ? Does he not behold, 
every hour, a stronger development of the principle of personal 
attachment, and a corresponding diminution of genuine and 
generous public feeling? Was indiscriminate support of party 
measures, was unwavering fealty, was regular suit and service, 
ever before esteemed such important and essential parts of offi- 
cial duty ? 

Sir, the theory of our institutions is plain ; it is, that govern- 
ment is an agency created for the good of the people, and that 
every person in office is the agent and servant of the people. 
Offices are created, not for the benefit of those who are to fill 
them, but for the public convenience ; and they ought to be no 
more in number, nor should higher salaries be attached to them, 
than the public service requires. This is the theory. But the 
difficulty in practice is, to prevent a direct reversal of all this ; 
to prevent public offices from being considered as intended for 
the use and emolument of those who can obtain them. There 
is a headlong tendency to this, and it is necessary to re- 
strain it by wise and effective legislation. There is still another, 
and perhaps a greatly more mischievous result, of extensive pat- 
ronage in the hands of a single magistrate, to which I have al- 
ready incidentally alluded ; and that is, that men in office have 
begun to think themselves mere agents and servants of the 
appointing power, and not agents of the government or the 
country. It is, in an especial manner, important, if it be prac- 
ticable, to apply some corrective to this kind of feeling and 
opinion. It is necessary to bring back public officers to the 


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conviction, that they belong to the country, and not to any ad- 
ministration, nor to any one man. The army is the army of the 
country; the navy is the navy of the country; neither of them 
is either the mere instrument of the administration for the time 
being, nor of him who is at the head of it. The post-oflSce', the 
land-office, the custom-house, are, in like manner, institutions of 
the country, established for the good of the people ; and it may 
well alarm the lovers of free institutions, when all the offices in 
these several departments are spoken of, in high places, as being 
but " spoils of victory," to be enjoyed by those who are success- 
ful in a contest, in which they profess this grasping of the spoils 
to have been the object of their efforts. 

This part of the bill, therefore. Sir, is a subject for fair com- 
parison. We have gained something, doubtless, by limiting the 
commissions of these officers to four years. But have wo 
gained as much as we have lost ? And may not the good be 
preserved, and the evil still avoided ? Is it not enough to say, 
that if, at the end of four years, moneys are retained, accounts 
unsettled, or other duties unperformed, the office shall be held 
to be vacated, without any positive act of removal ? 

For one, I think the balance of advantage is decidedly in fa- 
vor of the present bill. I think it will make men more depend- 
ent on their own good conduct, and less dependent on the will 
of others. I believe it will cause them to regard their country 
more, their own duty more, and the favor of individuals less. 
I think it will contribute to official respectability, to freedom of 
opinion, to independence of character ; and I think it will tend, 
in no small degree, to prevent the mixture of selfish and personal 
motives with the exercise of high political duties. It will pro- 
mote true and genuine republicanism, by causing the opinion 
of the people respecting the measiu-es of government, and the 
men in government, to be formed and expressed without fear or 
favor, and with a more entire regard to their true and real mer- 
its or demerits. It will be, so far as its effects reach, an auxil- 
iary to patriotism and public virtue, in their warfare against 
gelfishness and cupidity. 

The second check on executive patronage contained in this 
bill is of still greater importance than the first. This provision 
is, that, whenever the President removes any of these officers 
from office, he shall state to the Senate the reasons for such re- 


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raovaL This part of the bill has been opposed, both on consti* 
tntional grounds and on grounds of expediency. 

The bill, it is to be observed, expressly recognizes and admits 
the actual existence of the power of removal. I do not mean 
to deny, and the bill does not deny, that, at the present moment, 
Ihe President may remove these oflScers at will, because the 
early decision adopted that construction, and the laws have 
since uniformly sanctioned it. The law of 1820, intended to be 
repealed by this bill, expressly affirms the power. I consider it, 
therefore, a settled point; settled by construction, settled by 
precedent, settled by the practice of the government, and set- 
tled by statute. At the same time, after considering the ques- 
tion again and again within the last six years, I am very will- 
ing to say, that, in my deliberate judgment, the original decis- 
ion was wrong. I cannot but think that those who denied the 
power in 1789 had the best of the argument ; and yet I will 
not say that I know myself so thoroughly as to affirm, that this 
opinion may not have been produced, in some measure, by that 
abuse of the power which has been passing before our eyes for 
several years. It is possible that this experience of the evil 
may have affected my view of the constitutional argument. It 
appears to me, however, after thorough and repeated and con- 
scientioufl examination, that an erroneous interpretation was 
given to the Constitution, in this respect, by the decision of the 
first Congress ; and 1 will ask leave to state, shortly, the reasons 
for that opinion, although there is nothing in this bill which pro- 
poses to disturb that decision. 

The Constitution nowhere says one word of the power of 
removal from office, except in the case of conviction on impeach- 
ment. Wherever the power exists, therefore, except in cases of 
impeachment, it must exist as a constructive or incidental power. 
If it exists in the President alone, it must exist in him because 
it is attached to something else, or included in something else, 
or results from something else, which is granted to the Presi- 
Jent There is certainly no specific grant ; it is a power there- 
fore, the existence of which, if proved at all, is to be proved 
by inference and argument In the only instance in which the 
Constitution speaks of removal from office, as I have abready 
said, rt speaks of it as the exercise of judicial power ; that is to 
«ay, it speaks of it as one part of the judgment of the Senate^ 


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in cases of conviction on impeachment. No other mention is 
made, in the whole instrument, of any power of removal. 
Whence, then, is the power derived to the President ? 

It is usually said, by those who maintain its existence in the 
single hands of the President, that the power is derived from 
that clause of the Constitution which says, " The executive 
power shall be vested in a President." The power of removal, 
they argue, is, in its nature, an executive power; and, as the 
executive power is thus vested in the President, the power of 
removal is necessarily included. 

It is true, that the Constitution declares that the executive 
power shall be vested in the President ; but the first question 
which then arises is. What is executive power? What is the 
degree, and what are the limitations ? Executive power is not 
a thing so well known, and so accurately defined, as that the 
written constitution of a limited government can be supposed 
to have conferred it in the lump. What is executive power? 
What are its boundaries? What model or example had the 
framers of the Constitution in their minds, when they spoke of 
" executive power " ? Did they mean executive power as known 
in England, or as known in France, or as known in Russia ? 
Did they take it as defined by Montesquieu, by Burlamaqui, or 
by De Lolme ? All these differ from one another as to the ex- 
tent of the executive power of government What, then, was 
intended by "the executive power"? Now, Sir, I think it per- 
fectly plain and manifest, that, although the firamers of the Con- 
stitution meant to confer executive power on the President^ yet 
they meant to define and limit that power, and to confer no 
more than they did thus define and limit When they say it 
shall be vested in a President, they mean that one magistrate, to 
be called a President, shall hold the executive authority ; but they 
mean, further, that he shall hold this authority according to the 
grants and limitations of the Constitution itself. 

They did not intend, certainly, a sweeping gift of prerogative. 
They did not intend to grant to the President whatever might 
be construed, or supposed, or imagined to be executive power ; 
and the proof that they meant no such thing is, that, immedi- 
ately after using these general words, they proceed specifically 
to enumerate his several distinct and particular authorities ; to 
fix and define them ; to give the Senate an essential control over 


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the exercise of some of them, and to leave others uncontrolled. 
By the executive power conferred on the President, the Consti- 
tution means no more than that portion which itself creates, and 
which it qualifies, limits, and circumscribes. 

A general survey of the frame of the Constitution will satisfy 
us of this. That instrument goes all along upon the idea of 
dividing the powers of government, so far as^ practicable, into 
three great departments. It describes the powers and duties 
of these departments in an article allotted to each. As first 
in importance and dignity, it begins with the legislative depart- 
ment. The first article of the Constitution, therefore, com- 
mences with the declaration, that " all legislative power herein 
granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which 
shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives." The 
article goes on to prescribe the manner in which Congress is to 
be constituted and organized, cmd then proceeds to enumerate^ 
specially, the powers intended to be granted; and adds the gen- 
eral clause, conferring such authority as may be necessary to 
carry granted powers into effect. Now, Sir, no man doubts that 
tins is a limited legislature ; that it possesses no powers but such 
as are granted by express words or necessary implication ; and 
that it would be quite preposterous to insist that Congress pos- 
sesses any particular legislative power, merely because it is, in 
its nature, a legislative body, if no grant can be found for it in 
the Constitution itself. 

Then comes. Sir, the second article, creating an executive 
power ; and it declares, that " the executive power shall be vested 
in a President of the United States." After providing for the 
mode of choosing him, it immediately proceeds to enumerate, 
specifically, the powers which he shall possess and exercise, and 
fte duties which he shall perform. I consider the language of 
this article, therefore, precisely analogous to that in which the 
legislature is created ; that is to say, I understand the Constitu- 
tion as saying that " the executive power herein granted shall 
be vested in a President of the United States." 

In like manner, the third article, or that which is intended to 
arrange the judicial system, begins by declaring that *' the judi- 
cial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme 
Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may, firom 
time to time, ordain and establish." But these general words do 


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not show whcU extent of judicial power is vested in the courts 
of the United States. All that is left to be done, and is done, in 
the following sections, by express and well-guarded provisions. 

I think, therefore. Sir, that very great caution is to be use<), 
and the ground well considered, before we admit that the Presi- 
dent derives any distinct and specific power from those general 
words which vest the executive authority in him. The Consti- 
tution itself does not rest satisfied with these general words. It 
immediately goes into particulars, and carefully enumerates the 
several authorities which the President shall possess. The very 
first of the enumerated powers is the command of the army and 
navy. This, most certainly, is an executive power. And why 
is it particularly set down and expressed, if any power was 
intended to be granted under the general words ? This would 
pass, if any thing would pass, under those words. But enumer- 
ation, specification, particularization, was evidently the design 
of the framers of the Constitution, in this as in other parts of it. 
I do not, therefore, regard the declaration that the executive 
power shall be vested in a President as being any grant at all ; 
any more than the declaration that the legislative power shall be 
vested in Congress constitutes, by itself, a grant of such power. 
Li the one case, as in the other, I think the object was to de- 
scribe and denominate the department, which should hold, re- 
spectively, the legislative and the executive authority ; very 
much as we see, in some of the State constitutions, that the 
several articles are headed with the titles " legislative power," 
"executive power," "judicial power"; and this entitling of the 
articles with the name of the power has never been supposed, 
of itself, to confer any authority whatever. It amounts to no 
more than naming the departments. 

If, then, the power of removal be admitted to be an executive 
power, still it must be sought for and found among the enumer- 
ated executive powers, or fairly implied from some one or more 
of them. It cannot be implied from the general words. The 
power of appointment was not left to be so implied ; why, then, 
should the power of removal have been so left ? They are both 
closely connected ; one is indispensable to the other ; why, then, 
was one carefully expressed, defined, and limited, and not one 
g^rord said about the other ? 

Sir, I think the whole matter is Buj£ciently plain. Nothing is 


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said in the Constitution about the power of removal, because it 
is not a separate and distinct power. It is part of the power of 
appointment, naturally going with it or necessarily resulting 
from it The Constitution or the laws may separate these pow- 
ers, it is true, in a particular case, as is done in respect to the 
judges, who, though appointed by the President and Senate, 
cannot be removed at the pleasiure of either or of both. So a 
statute, in prescribing the tenure of any other office, may place 
the officer beyond the reach of the appointing power. But 
where no other tenure is prescribed, and officers hold their places 
at will, that will is necessarily the will of the appointing power ; 
because the exercise of the power of appointment at once dis- 
places such officers. The power of placing one man in office 
necessarily implies the power of turning another out. If one 
man be Secretary of State, and another be appointed, the first 
goes out by the mere force of the appointment of the other, 
without any previous act of removal whatever. And this is the 
practice of the government, and has been, from the first In all 
the removals which have been made, they have generally been 
eflfected simply by making other appointments. I cannot fiind 
a case to the contrary. There is no such thing as any distinct 
official act of removal. I have looked into the practice, and 
caused inquiries to be made in the departments, and I do not 
learn that any such proceeding is known as an entry or record 
of ihe removal of an officer from office ; and the President could 
only act, in such cases, by causing some proper record or entry 
to be made, as proof of the fact of removal. I am aware that 
there have been some cases in which notice has been sent to 
persons in office that their services are, or will be, after a given 
day, dispensed with. These are usually cases in which the 
object is, not to inform the incumbent that he is removed, but to 
tell him that a successor either is, or by a day named will be, 
appointed. If there be any instances in which such notice is 
given without express reference to the appointment of a succes- 
sor, they are few ; and even in these, such reference must be 
implied ; because in no case is there any distinct official act of 
removal, that I can find, unconnected with the act of appointment 
At any rate, it is the usual practice, and has been from the first, 
to consider the appointment as producing the removal of the 
previous incumbent. When the President desires to remove a 


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person from office, he sends a message to the Senate nominat- 
ing some other person. The message usually runs in this form : 
" I nominate A. B. to be collector of the customs, &c., in the 
place of C. D., removed." If the Senate advise and consent to 
this nomination, C. D. is effectually out of office, and A. B. is 
in, in his place. The same effect would be produced, if the mes- 
sage should say nothing of any removal. Suppose A. B. to be 
Secretary of State, and the President to send tis a message, say- 
ing merely, " I nominate C. D. to be Secretary of State." If we 
confirm this nomination, C. D. becomes Secretary of State, and 
A. B. is necessarily removed. 

I have gone into these details and particulars, Sir, for the pur- 
pose of showing, that, not only in the nature of things, but also 
according to the practice of the government, the power of re- 
moval is incident to the power of appointment. It belongs to 
it, is attached to it, forms a part of it, or results from it. 

If this be true, the inference is manifest. If the power of re- 
moval, when not otherwise regulated by Constitution or law, be 
part and parcel of the power of appointment, or a necessary in- 
cident to it, then whoever holds the power of appointment holds 
also the power of removal. But it is the President and the Sen- 
ate, and not the President alone, who hold the power of appoint- 
ment; and therefore, according to the true construction of the 
Constitution, it should be the President and Senate, and not the 
President alone, who hold the power of removal. 

The decision of 1789 has been followed by a very strange and 
indefensible anomaly, showing that it does not rest on any just 
principle. The natural connection between the appointing power 
and the removing power has, as I have already stated, always 
led the President to bring about a removal by the process of a 
new appointment. This is quite efficient for his purpose, when 
the Senate confirms the new nomination. One man is then 
turned out, and another put in. But the Senate sometimes 
rejects the new nomination ; and what then becomes of the old 
incumbent ? Is he out of office, or is he still in ? He has not 
been turned out by any exercise of the power of appointment, 
for no appointment has been made. That power has not been 
exercised. He has not been removed by any distinct and sep- 
arate act of removal, for no such act has been performed, or 
attempted. Is he still in, then, or is he out? Where is he? In 


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this dilenuna, Sir, those who maintain the power of removal as 
existing in the President alone are driven to what seems to me 
very near absurdity. The incumbent has not been removed by 
the appointing power, since the appointing power has not been 
exercised. He has not been removed by any distinct and inde- 
pendent act of removal, since no such act has been performed. 

They are forced to the necessity, therefore, of contending that 
the removal has been accomplished by the mere nomination of 
u successor; so that the removing power is made incident, not 
to the appointing power, but to one part of it ; that is, to the 
nominating power. The nomination, not having been assented 
to by the Senate, it is clear, has failed, as the first step in the 
process of appointment But though thus rendered null and 
void in its main object, as the first process in making an ap- 
pointment, it is held to be good and valid, nevertheless, to bring 
about that which results from an appointmeM ; that is, the re- 
moval of the person actually in office. In other words, the nom- 
ination produces the consequences of an appointment, or some 
of them, though it be itself no appointment, and effect no ap- 
pointment This, Sir, appears to me to be any thing but sound 
reasoning and just construction. 

But this is not all. The President has sometimes sent us a 
nomination to an office already filled, and, before we have acted 
upon it, has seen fit to withdraw it. What is the effect of 
such a nomination ? If a nomination^ merely as such, turns 
out tiie present incumbent, then he is out, let what will become 
afterwards of the nomination. But I believe the President 
has acted upon the idea that a nomination made, and at any 
time afterwards withdrawn, does not remove the actual incum- 

Sir, even this is not the end of the inconsistencies into which 
the prevailing doctrine has led. There have been cases in 
which nominations to offices already filled have come to the 
Senate, remained here for weeks, or months, the incumbents 
all the while continuing to discharge their official duties, and 
relinquishing their offices only when the nominations of their 
successors have been confirmed, and commissions issued to 
them; so that, if a nomination be confirmed, the nomination U^ 
self makes no removal ; the removal then waits to be brought 
ttbout by the appointment. But if the nomination be rejected^ 


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then the nomination itself y it is contended, has effected the re- 
moval. Who can defend opinions which lead to such results ? 

These reasons, Sir, incline me strongly to the opinion, that, 
upon a just construction of the Constitution, the power of re- 
moval is part of, or a necessary result from, the power of appoint- 
ment, and, therefore, that it ouglit to have been exercised by the 
Senate concurrently with the President 

The argument may be strengthened by various illustrations. 
The Constitution declares that Congress may vest the appoint- 
ment of inferior officers in the President alone, in the courts 
of law, or in the heads of departments; and Congress has 
passed various acts providing for appointments, according to 
this regulation of the Constitution. Thus the Supreme Court, 
and other courts of the United States, have authority to appoint 
their clerks ; heads of departments also appoint their own clerks, 
according to statute provisions ; and it has never been doubted 
that these courts, and these heads of departments, may remove 
their clerks at pleasure, although nothing is said in the laws 
respecting such power of removal Now, it is evident that 
neither the courts nor the heads of departments acquire the 
right of removal under a general grant of executive power, for 
none such is made to them ; nor upon the ground of any general 
injunction to see the laws executed, for no such general injunc- 
tion is addressed to them. They nevertheless hold the power 
of removal, as all admit, and .they must hold it, therefore, sim- 
ply as incident to, or belonging to, the power of appointment. 
There is no other clause under which they can possibly claim it. 

Again ; let us suppose that the Constitution had given to the 
President the power of appointment, without consulting the 
Senate. Suppose it had said, " The President shall appoint 
ambassadors, other public ministers, judges of the Supreme 
Court, and all other officers of the United States." K the Con- 
stitution had stood thus, the President would unquestionably 
have possessed the power of removal, where the tenure of office 
was not fixed; and no man, I imagine, would in that case 
have looked for the removing power either in that clause which 
«ays the executive authority shall be vested in the President, or 
in that other clause which makes it his duty to see the laws 
faithfully executed. Every body would have said, " The Presi- 
dent possesses an uncontrolled power of appointment, and that 


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necessarily carries with it an uncontrolled power of removal, un- 
less some permanent tenure be given to the office by the CJon- 
stitution, or by law." 

And now, Sir, let me state, and examine, the main argument, 
on which the decision of 1789 appears to rest it. 

The most plausible reasoning brought forward on that occa- 
sion may be fairly stated thus : — " The executive power is 
vested in the President ; this is the general rule of the Consti- 
tntion. The association of the Senate with the President, in 
exercising a particular function belonging to the executive power, 
IB an exception to this general rule, and exceptions to general 
rules are to be taken strictly ; therefore, though the Senate par- 
takes of the appointing power, by express provision, yet, as 
nothing is said of its participation in the removing power, such 
participation is to be excluded" 

The error of this argument, if I may venture to call it so, con- 
sidering who used it,* lies in this. It supposes the power of 
removal to be held by the President under the general grant of 
executive power. Now, it is certain that the power of appoint- 
ment is not held under that general grant, because it is particu- 
larly provided for, and is conferred, in express terms, on the 
President and Senate. If, therefore, the power of removal be a 
natural appendage to the power of appointment, then it is not 
conferred by the general words granting executive power to the 
President, but is conferred by the special clause which gives the 
appointing power to the President and Senate. So that the 
spirit of the very rule on which the argument of 1789, as I have 
stated it, relies, appears to me to produce a directly opposite 
result ; for, if exceptions to a general rule are to be taken strictly, 
when expressed, it is still more clear, when they are not ex- 
pressed at all, that they are not to be implied except on evident 
and clear grounds ; and as the general power of appointment is 
confessedly given to the President and Senate, no exception is 
to be implied in favor of one part of that general power, name- 
ly, the removing part, unless for some obvious and irresistible 
reason. In other words, this argument which I am answering 
is not sound in its premises, and therefore not sound in its con- 
duaion, if the grant of the power of appointment does naturally 

* Mr. MadisoD. See the Discuasion in Gales and Seaton*B Debates in Con- 

, Vol. I. p. 473 a aeq. 
VOL. IV. 17 


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include also the power of removal, when this last power is not 
otherwise expressly provided for ; because, if the power of re- 
moval belongs to the power of appointment, or necessarily fol* 
lows it, then it has gone with it into the hands of the President 
and Senate ; and the President does not hold it alone, as aa 
implication or inference from the grant to him of general execu- 
tive powers. 

The true application of that rule of construction, thus relied 
r n, would present the ailment, I think, in this form : " The 
appointing power is vested in the President and Senate ; this is 
the general rule of the Constitution* The removing power ia 
part of the appointing power ; it cannot be separated from the 
rest, but by supposing that an exception was intended ; but all 
exceptions to general rules are to be taken strictly, even when 
expressed ; and, for a much stronger reason, they are not to be 
implied, when not ex)[Nressed^ unless inevitable necessity of oon- 
struction requires it" 

On the whole, Sir, with the diffidence which becomes one 
who is reviewing the opinions of some of the ablest and wisest 
men of the age, I must still express my own conviction, that the 
decision of Congress in 1789^ Which separated the power of 
removal from the power of appointment, was founded on an 
erroneous construction of the Constitution, and that it has led 
to great inconsistencies, as well as to great abuses, in the sub- 
sequent, and especially in the more recent, history of the gov- 

Much has been said now^ and much was scud f(Nrmerly, about 
the inconvenience of denying this power to the President alone. 
I agree that an argument drawn from this source may have 
weight, in a doubtful case ; but it is not to be permitted that we 
shall presume the existence of a power merely because we think 
it would be convenient Nor is there, I think, any such glaring, 
striking, or certain inconvenience as has been suggested. Sud- 
den removals from office are seldom necessary; we see how 
seldom, by reference to the practice of the government under all 
administrations which preceded the present And if we look 
back over the removals which have been made in the last six 
years, there is no man who can maintain that there is one case 
in a hundred in which the country would have suffered the least 
inconvenience if no removal had been made without the oon- 


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Bent of the Senate, Party might have felt the inconvenience, 
bat tike couniary never. Many removals have been made (by 
new appointments) during the session of the Senate ; and if 
there has occurred one single case, in the whole six years, in 
which the public convenience required the removal of an officer 
in the recess, such case has escaped my recollection. Besides, 
it is worthy of being remembered, when we are seeking for the 
tnie intent of the Constitution on this subject, that there is 
reason to suppose that its firamers expected the Senate would 
be in session a much larger part of the year than the House of 
Representatives, so that its concurrence could generally be had, 
at once, on any question of appointment or removal. 

But this argument, draym from the supposed inconvenience 
of denying an absolute power of removal to the President, sug- 
gests still another view of the question. The curgument asserts, 
that it must have been the intention of the framers of the Con- 
stitution to confer the power on the President, for the sake of 
convenience, and as an absolutely necessary power in his hands. 
Why, then, did they leave their intent doubtful ? Why did they 
not confer the power «» express terms ? Why were they thus 
totally silent on a point of so much importance ? 

Seeing that the removing power naturally belongs to the ap- 
pointing power ; seeing that, in other cases, in the same Consti- 
tution, its framers have left the one with the consequence of 
drawing the other after it, — if, in this instance, they meant to do 
what was uncommon and extraordinary, that is to say, if they 
meant to separate and divorce the two powers, why did they not 
say so? Why did they not express their meaning in plain 
words ? Why should they take up the appointing power, and 
carefully define it, limit it, and restrain it, and yet leave to 
▼ague infneoce and loose construction an equally important 
power, which all must admit to be closely connected with it, if 
not a part of it? K others can account for all this silence 
respecting the removing power, upon any other ground than that 
the framers of the Constitution regarded both powers as one, 
and supposed they had provided for them together, I confess I 
cannot I have the clearest conviction, that they looked to no 
other mode of displacing an officer than by impeachment, or by 
the regular appointment of another person to the same place. 

But, Sir, whether the decision of 1789 were right or wrong. 


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the bill before us applies to the actually existing state of things, 
It recognizes the President's power of removal, in express 
terms, as it has been practically exercised, independently of the 
Senate. The present bill does not disturb the power; but I 
wish it not to be understood that the power is, even now, beyond 
the reach of legislation. I believe it to be within the just power 
of Congress to reverse the decision of 1789, and I mean to 
hold myself at liberty to act, hereafter, upon that question, as I 
shall think the safety of the government and of the Constitu- 
tion may require. The present bill, however, proceeds upon 
the admission that the power does at present exist Its words 
are: — 

" Sec. 3. And he it further enacted^ That, in all nominations made 
by the President to the Senate, to fill vacancies occasioned by the exer- 
cise of the President's power to remove the said officers mentioned in 
the second section of this act, the fact of the removal shall be stated to 
the Senate, at the same time that the nomination is made, with a state- 
ment of the reasons for which such officer may have been removed." 

In my opinion, this provision is entirely constitutional, and 
highly expedient. 

The regulation of the tenure of oflSce is a common exercise 
of legislative authority, and the power of Congress in this par- 
ticular is not at all restrained or limited by any thing contained 
in the Constitution, except in regard to judicial officers. All 
the rest is left to the ordinary discretion of the legislature. 
Congress may give to offices which it creates (except those of 
judges) what duration it pleases. When the office is created, 
and is to be filled, the President is to nominate the candidate to 
fill it ; but when he comes into the office, he comes into it upon 
the conditions and restrictions which the law may have attached 
to it If Congress were to declare by law that the Attorney- 
General, or the Secretary of State, should hold his office during 
good behavior, I am not aware of any ground on which such a 
law could be held unconstitutional A provision of that kind 
in regard to such officers might be unwise, but I do not perceive 
that it would transcend the power of Congress. 

If the Constitution had not prescribed the tenure of judicial 
office, Congress might have thought it expedient to give the judges 
Just such a tenure as the Constitution has itself provided ; that is 


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to say, a right to hold daring good behavior ; and I am of opin- 
ion, that such a law would have been perfectly constitutional. It 
18 by law, in England, that the judges are made independent of 
the removing power of the crown. I do not think that the Con- 
stitution, by giving the power of appointment, or the power botii 
of appointment and removal, to the President and Senate, in- 
tended to impose any restraint on the legislature, in regard to its 
authority of regulating the duties, powers, duration, or responsi* 
biiity of office. I agree, that Congress ought not to do any thing 
which shall essentially impair that right of nomination and ap- 
pointment of certain officers, such as ministers, judges, &c., which 
the Constitution has vested in the President and Senate. But 
while the power of nomination and appointment is left fairiy 
where tlie Constitution has placed it, I think the whole field of 
regulation is open to legislative discretion. If a law were to 
pass, declaimg that district attorneys, or collectors of customs, 
should hold their offices four years, unless removed on convic* 
tioQ for misbehavior, no one could doubt its constitutional valid- 
ity ; because the legislature is naturally competent to prescribe 
the tenuve of office. And is a reasonable check on the power of 
renK>val any thing move than a qualification of the tenure of 
office? Let it be always remembered, that the President's 
removing power, as aow exercised, is claimed and held under 
the general clause vesting in him the executive authority. It is 
implied, or inferred, fcoan that clause alone. 

Now, if it is properly derived from ihat source, since the Con^ 
stitution does not say bow it shall be limited, how defined, or 
how carried into effect, it seems especially proper for Congress, 
under the general provision of the Constitution which gives it 
authority to pass all laws necessary to carry into effect the pow- 
ers conferred on any department, to regulate the subject of re- 
moval And the regulation here required is of the gentiest kind. 
It only provides that the President shall make known to the 
Senate his reasons for removal of officers of this description, 
when he does see fit to remove them. It might, I think, very 
justly go farther. It might, and perhaps it ought, to prescribe 
the form of removal, and the proof of the fact It might, I also 
think, declare that the President should only suspend officers, at 
pleaMure, till the next meeting of the Senate, according to tiie 
amendment suggested by the honorable memb^ firom Kentucky ; 


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and, if the present practice cannot be otherwise checked, this 
provision, in my opinion, ought hereafter to be adopted. Bat I 
am content with the slightest degree of restraint which may be 
sufficient to arrest the totally unnecessary, unreasonable, and 
dangerous exercise of the power of removal. I desire only, for 
the present at least, that, when the President turns a man oat 
of office, he should give his reasons for it to the Senate, when 
he nominates another person to fill the place. Let him give 
these reasons, and stand on them. If they are fair and honesty 
he need have no fear in stating them. It is not to invite any 
trial ; it is not to give the removed officer an opportunity of de- 
fence ; it is not to excite controversy and debate ; it is simply 
that the Senate, and ultimately the public, may know the 
grounds of removal. I deem this degree of regulation, at least, 
necessary ; unless we are willing to submit all these officers to 
an absolute and a perfectly irresponsible removing power; a 
power which, as recently exercised, tends to turn the whole body 
of public officers into partisans, dependants, favorites, sycophante, 
and man-worshippers. 

Mr. President, without pursuing the discussion further, I will 
detain the Senate only while I recapitulate the opinions which I 
have expressed ; because I am far less desirous of influencing the 
judgment of others, than of making clear the grounds of my 
own judgment. 

I think, then. Sir, that the power of appointment naturally 
and necessarily includes the power of removal, whexe no limita- 
tion is expressed, nor any tenure but that at will declared. The 
power of appointment being conferred on the President and 
Senate^ I think the power of removal went along with it, and 
should have been regarded as a part of it, and exercised by the 
same hands. I think, consequentiy, that the decision of 1789, 
which implied a power of removal separate firom the appointing 
power, was erroneous. 

But I think the decision of 1789 has been established by prac- 
tice, and recognized by subsequent laws, as the settied construc- 
tion of the Constitution, and that it is our duty to act upon the 
case accordingly, for the present ; without admitting that Con- 
gress may not, hereafter, if necessity shall require it, reverse 
the decision of 1789. I think the legislature possesses the power 
of regulating the condition, duration, qualification, and tenure 


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of office, in all cases where the Constitation has made no ex- 
press provision on the subject 

I am, therefore, of opinion, that it is competent for Congress to 
declare by law, as one qualification of the tenure of office, that 
the incumbent shaU remain in place till the President shall re- 
move him, for reasons to be stated to the Senate. And I am 
of opinion that this qualification, mild and gentle as it is, will 
have some effect in arresting the evils which beset the progress 
of the government, and seriously threaten its future prosperity. 

These are the reasons for which I give my support to this 


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Amongst the amendments moved by Mr. Webster to the bill for 
regulating the deposits of the public money, and adopted, was the fol- 
lowing additional section, viz. : — 

" Section 9. That all the warrants or drafts of the Treasurer of the 
United States, or such as shall be authorized by the Treasury Depart- 
ment, drawn on any deposit bank, shall be payable in gold and silver, 
if the holder desire to receive the same ; and no such warrant or draft, 
nor any check, draft, or bill of exchange, given or received in payment 
thereof, shall be expressed to be payable in ' current bank-bills,' or in 
any other medium than the lawful currency of the country." 

On offering this amendment, Mr. Webster spoke as follows : — 

In discussing the provisions and merits of this bill, it is neces- 
sary so often to allude to the Bank of the United States, and 
the withdrawal of the government deposits from that institution, 
that I will take occasion to say a few words, and they shall be 
very few, upon that subject. In the first place, I wish to say 
that I consider the question of renewing the bank charter as 
entirely settled. It cannot be renewed. Public opinion, very 
unfortunately, as I think, for the country, has decided against 
it ; and while there is a strong and prevailing sentiment in the 
minds of the community against a measure, it is quite useless 
to propose it For myself, I shall take no part in any attempt 
to renew the charter of the bank. The people have decided 
against its continuance, and it must expire. 

Nor shall I, if I remain in public life, join in any attempt, at 
any time hereafter, to establish a new national bank, till expe- 
rience of its want shall have satisfied the country of its great 

* Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 96th of Febmaryy 
1835, on the Bill to regulate the Deposits of the Public Money. 


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utility or indispensable necessity. That the time will come 
when the country will feel the fullest conviction of this necessity, 
I do not doubt; but that conviction, I think, is likely to be 
brought about only by experience. If, while I remain here, there 
shall be a general call of the country for a new national institution, 
I shall, of course, be ready to aid in its establishment, on princi- 
ples which have been proved to be safe, and with any amend- 
ments which experience may have suggested. But for myself, 
it is my stated purpose to do nothing more in relation to a na- 
tional bank, till a decisive lead shall be given in that direction 
by the public opinion. 

In the next place, I wish to say, that the " experiment," upon 
the success of which gentiemen have felicitated themselves, has 
not, in my opinion, undergone any trial at alL It has been put 
to no test. 

There are two public objects, both of great importance, in the 
accomplishment of which the Bank of the United States, in my 
opinion, has been generally successfuL I mean the transmission 
of public funds, and other facilities to the operations of the 
Ireasury, as one of these objects ; and a safe, cheap, and admi- 
rable system of internal exchanges, as the other. These objects 
were both attained by the skilful administration of the bank, to 
such a degree as left littie or nothing to be wished. By internal 
exchanges, I intend the whole operation of internal bills of ex- 
change, and the circulation, also, of a paper currency, always 
safe, founded on solid capital, and everywhere, in every nook 
and corner of the country, as well as on the exchanges of the 
great cities, always of the same value as gold and silver, except, 
indeed, where the bills of the bank have been preferred to gold 
and silver, as being better suited to the purposes of remittance. 
Now, Sir, it has been predicted that the State banks, selected as 
deposit banks, could equally well accomplish all these objects ; 
that they could as readily, and as completely, facilitate the oper- 
ations of the treasury; and that they could, and would, also 
furnish a general currency, as sound and as well accredited ; and 
that they could, knd would, conduct the internal exchanges of 
commerce as safely and as cheaply. Of all this I have doubt- 
ed ; but the day of argument is passed, and the system now 
awaits the unerring result of experience. But the time for 
tiiat experience has not yet arrived. Up to the present moment 


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the country has enjoyed, and does now enjoy, the benefit of the 
circulation of the bills of the Bank of the tlnited States. The 
amount of that circulation is now eighteen or twenty millicHis, 
and it is diffused over every part of the country, and abounds, 
more especially, in those places where it is more particularly 
needed, and, indeed, is kept there because it is there most need- 
ed. Here is a medium of exchange everywhere to be had, and 
to be had without charge. A hundred dollars in gold and silver 
buy a post-note of the Bank of the United States in New Or- 
leans, or Mobile, or St Louis, and it is remitted to Philadelphia 
or New York without danger and without expense. The whole 
mass of the circulation of the Bank of the United States, there- 
fore, is, at this moment, in active operation, in expediting and 
facilitating exchanges, and, indeed, in assisting the o{>erations 
of the treasury, and the deposit banks themselves, by affi)rding a 
medium of universal credits. The present system, therefore, 
still rests, substantially, on the Bank of the United States. 

It Lb the credit and the circulation of the bills of that bank 
which still sustain the accustomed operations of internal com- 
merce ; and the bank still exercises all that wholesome contrcd 
over the currency of the country which it has heretofore done. 
But the bank is about to expire. These eighteen or twenty 
millions must be gradually witiidrawn from circulation, though 
they may come in very slowly, and be drawn very reluctantly, 
fix)m the hands which hold them ; so that the circulation of the 
bills may, more or less, continue fw a considerable time after the 
charter shall expire. In this way I have no doubt of its contin- 
uance to do good, for some time after its legal existence shall 
have ceased. There will be no rush for payment of its notes 
and bills, because there will be no doubt about the sufficiency 
of the fund. There will be no haste to get rid of them, because 
they will be better than any other paper, and better than gold 
and silver. 

But the bank must wind up its affairs ; its debts must be col- 
lected, and its circulatioQ, after a while, entirely withdrawn. 
And when this takes place, or begins to take place, then, and 
not till then, the existing government "experiment" will begin 
to be put to the proof At present, all is fair weather; the ques- 
tion is. How will it be, when it becomes necessary to fill up the 
void occasioned by withdrawing the bills of the Bank of the 


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United States by notes of the deposit banks? When these 
banks shall be brought to rely on their own means, their own 
credit, and their own facilities ; when the substantial succor of 
a universally-accredited paper currency of twenty millions in 
amount shall be withdrawn, — then the "experiment" will be 
put on trial. 

It is known, Sir, that I am one of those who believe in the 
impracticability of an exclusive, or of a general, metallic curren- 
cy. Such a currency is not suited to the age, nor to commercial 
convenience. The return of the golden age is a dream. There 
will continue to be banks, and the mass of circulation will be a 
paper circulation of some kind; and the question is, whether 
State institutions, associated together as deposit banks, can fur- 
nish a sound and universally accredited circulation. 

At present, they are not proved capable of any such thing. If a 
gentleman here wishes to remit money to New England, or to the 
Ohio River, he certainly does not send bills of the deposit bank of 
this District. If a single individual has done that, by way of try- 
ing the " experiment," he probably will not repeat the trial ; and, 
at any rate, the example is not generally followed. The deposit 
banks pay specie, which is, so far, very well ; and a person with 
a check on one of those banks can obtain specie, and with that 
specie he can obtain bills of the Bank of the United States ; and 
this is the process he will go through, if he wishes to remit 
money, in the shape of bank-notes, to places at any considerable 
distance. In fact, this is well known to be the only practice. 
How this is to be effected, when there shall be no longer notes 
of the Bank of the United States to be had, remains to be seen. 

I have said, Sir, the day of trial has not come, and that all as 
yet seems clear weather. But I have lately learned that there are 
symptoms of approaching squalls. Some little specks of cloud, 
at least, make their appearance above the horizon. I learn, 
from authority not to be questioned, that, within the last week 
or ten days, a treasury warrant was drawn on a deposit bank in 
one of the cities, payable in another city. The bank on which 
the warrant was drawn offered to pay in a check on a bank in 
ttie city where the warrant was payable ; and when the check 
was presented, it was found to be made payable in current bank" 
notes. Here, I think. Sir, there is, as I have said, a small doud 
darkening the early dawn of the new golden day of our curren- 


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cy. Even so soon as the present hour, treasury drafts are thus 
offered to be paid in current bank-notes. I have very good rea- 
son to believe, Sir, that other deposit banks draw their checks in 
like manner, payable in current bank-notes. And I have called 
the attention of the Senate to these occurrences, not merely to 
expose the practice, but to correct it also. I wish to stop it at 
the threshold, by declaring it illegal ; and I have prepared a sec- 
tion, which I trust the Senate will see the importance of insert- 
ing in this bill. 


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IN 1835.* 

It is not my purpose, Mr. President, to make any remark on 
tiie state of our affairs with France. The time for that discus- 
sion has not come, and I wait. We are in daily expectation of 
a communication from the President, which will give us light ; 
and we are authorized to expect a recomm,endation by him of 
such measures as he thinks it may be necessary and proper for 
Congress to adopt. I do not anticipate him. In this most im- 
portant and delicate business, it is the proper duty of the execu- 
tive to go forward, and I, for one, do not intend either to be 
drawn or driven into the lead. When official information shall 
be before us, and when measures shall be recommended upon 
the proper responsibility, I shall endeavor to form the best judg- 
ment I can, and shall act according to its dictates. 

I rise, now, for another purpose. This resolution has drawn 
on a debate upon the general conduct of the Senate during the 
last session of CJongress, and especially in regard to the proposed 
grant of the three millions to the President on the last night of 
the session. My main object is to tell the story of this transac- 
tion, and to exhibit the conduct of the Senate fairly to the 
pnbUe view. I owe this duty to the Senate. I owe it to the 
committee with which I am connected ; and although whatever 
is personal to an individual is generally of too little importance 
to be made the subject of much remark, I hope I may be per- 
mitted to say a few words in defence of my own reputation, 
in reference to a matter which has been greatly misrepresented. 

This vote for the three millions was proposed by the House 

* A Speech delivered in the Senate of the United States, on the 14th of Jan* 
oary, 1836, on Mr. Benton *8 Resolutions for appropriating the Surplus Rer^ 
Hue to National Defence. 

VOL. IV. 18 


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of Representatives as an amendment to the fortification bill ; and 
the loss of that bill, three millions and all, is the charge which 
has been made upon the Senate, sounded over all the land, and 
now again renewed. I propose to give the true history of this 
bill, its origin^ its progress, and its loss. 

Before attempting that, however, let me remark, for it is wor- 
thy to be remarked and remembered, that the business brought 
before the Senate last session, important and various as it was, 
and both public and private, was all gone through with most 
uncommon despatch and promptitude. No session has wit- 
nessed a more complete clearing off and finishing of the subjects 
before us. The communications from the other house, whether 
bills or whatever else, were especially attended to in a proper 
season, and with that ready respect which is due firom one house 
to the other. I recollect nothing of any importance which came 
to us from the House of Representatives, which was neglected, 
overlooked, or disregarded by the Senate. 

On the other hand, it was the misfortune of the Senate, and, 
as I think, the misfortune of the country, that, owing to ihe 
state of business in the House of Representatives towards the 
close of the session, several measures which had been matured 
in the Senate, and passed into bills, did not receive attention, 
so as to be either agreed to or rejected, in the other branch of 
the legislature. They fell, of course, by the termination of the 

Among these measures may be mentioned the following, 
viz.: — 

The Post-Ofpice Reform Bill, which passed the Senate 
uncmimously^ and of the necessity for which the whole country 
is certainly now most abundantly satisfied ; 

The Custom-House Regulations Bill, which also passed 
nearly unanimously, after a very laborious preparation by the 
Committee on Commerce, and a full discussion in the Senate ; 

The Judiciary Bill, passed here by a majority of thirty-one 
to five, and which has again already passed the Senate at this 
session with only a single dissenting vote ; 

The bill indemnifying claimants for French spoliations 
before 1800; 

The bill regulating the deposit of the public monst 
in the deposit banks: 


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Thb bill respecting the tenure of certain offices, and 
been passed to be engrossed, in the Senate, by a decided ma- 

All these important measures, matured and passed in the Sen- 
ate in the course of the session, and many others of less impor- 
tance, were sent to the House of Representatives, and we never 
beard any thing more from them. They there found then* graves. 

It is worthy of being remarked, also, that the attendance of 
members of the Senate was remarkably full, particularly toward 
the end of the session. On the last day, every Senator was in 
his place till very near the hour of adjournment, as the journal 
will show. We had no breaking up for want of a quorum ; no 
delay, no c^s of the Senate ; nothing which was made neces- 
sary by the negligence or inattention of the members of this 
body. On the vote of the three millions of dollars, which was 
taken at about eight o'clock in the evening, forty-eight votes 
were given, every member of the Senate being in his place and 
answering to his name. This is an instance of punctuality, dil- 
igence, and labor, continued to the very end of an arduous ses- 
sion, wholly without example or parallel. 

The Senate, then. Sir, must stand, in the judgment of every 
man, fully acquitted of all remissness, all negligence, all inatten- 
tion, amidst the fatigue and exhaustion of the closing hours of 
Congress^ Nothing passed unheeded, nothing was overlooked, 
nothing forgotten, and nothing slighted. 

And now. Sir, I would proceed immediately to give the his- 
tory of the fortification bill, if it were not necessary as introduc- 
tory to that history, and as showing the circumstances under 
which the Senate was called on to transact the public business, 
first to refer to another bill which was before us, and to the pro- 
ceedings which were had upon it 

It is well known. Sir, that the annual appropriation bills al- 
ways originate in the House of Bepresentativesw This is so much 
a matter of course, that no one ever looks to see such a bill first 
brought forward in the Senate. It is also well known. Sir, that 
it has been usual, heretofore, to make the annual appropriations 
for the Military Academy at West Point in the general bill 
which provides lor the pay and support of the army. But last 
year the army bill did not contain any appropriation whatever 


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for the support of West Point. I took notice of this singular 
omission when the bill was before the Senate, but presumed, 
and indeed understood, that the House would send us a separate 
bill for the Military Academy. The army bill, therefore, passed ; 
but no bill for the Academy at West Point appeared. We 
waited for it from day to day, and from week to week, but 
waited in vain. At length, the time for sending bills from one 
house to the other, according to the joint rules of the two houses, 
expired, and no bill had made its appearance for the support of 
the Military Academy. These joint rules, as is well known, are 
sometimes suspended on the application of one house to the 
other, in favor of particular bills, whose progress has been unex- 
pectedly delayed, but which the public interest requires to be 
passed. But the House of Representatives sent us no request 
to suspend the rules in favor of a bill for the support of the Mil- 
itary Academy, nor made any other proposition to save the 
institution from immediate dissolution. Notwithstanding all 
the talk about a war, and the necessity of a vote for the three 
millions, the Military Academy, an institution cherished so long, 
and at so much expense, was on the very point of being entirely 
broken up. 

Now it so happened. Sir, that at this time there was another 
appropriation bill which had come from the House of Repre- 
sentatives, and was before the Committee on Finance here. 
This bill was entitled " An Act making appropriations for the 
civil and diplomatic expenses of the government for the year 

In this state of things, several members of the House of Rep- 
resentatives applied to the committee, and besought us to save 
the Military Academy by annexing the necessary appropria- 
tions for its support to the bill for civil and diplomatic service. 
We spoke to them, in reply, of the unfitness, the irregularity, 
the incongruity, of this forced union of such dissimilar subjects ; 
but they told us it was a case of absolute necessity, and that, 
without resorting to this mode, the appropriation could not get 
through. We acquiesced. Sir, in these suggestions. We went 
out of our way. We agreed to do an extraordinary and an 
irregular thing, in order to save the public business from miscar- 
riage. By direction of the committee, I moved the Senate to 
add an appropriation for the Military Academy to the bill for 


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defraying civil and diplomatic expenses. The bill was so 
amended; and in this form the appropriation was finally 

But this was not alL This bill for the civil and diplomatic 
service, being thus amended by tacking the Military Academy 
to it, was sent back by us to the House of Representatives, 
where its length of tail was to be stUl much further increased. 
That house had before it several subjects for provision, and for 
appropriation, upon which it had not passed any bill before 
the time for passing bills to be sent to the Senate had elapsed. 
1 was anxious that these things should, in some way, be pro- 
vided for ; and when the diplomatic bill came back, drawing the 
Military Academy after it, it was thought prudent to attach to 
it several of these other provisions. There were propositions to 
pave the streets in the city of Washington, to repair the Capi- 
tol, and various other things, which it was necessary to provide 
for ; and they, therefore, were put into the same bill, by way of 
amendment to an amendment; that is to say, Mr. President, 
we had been prevailed on to amend their bill for defraying the 
salary of our ministers abroad, by adding an appropriation for 
the Military Academy, and they proposed to amend this our 
amendment, by adding matter as germain to it, as it was itself 
to the original bill. There was also the President's gardener. 
His salary was unprovided for ; and there was no way of rem- 
edying this important omission, but by giving him place in the 
diplomatic service bUl, among chargis dPaffaires^ envoys extra- 
ordinary, and ministers plenipotentiary. In and among these 
ranks, therefore, he was formally introduced by the amendment 
of the House, and there he now stands, as you wiU readily see 
by turning to the law. 

Sir, I have not the pleasure to know this useful person ; but 
should I see him, some morning, overlooking the workmen in 
the lawns, walks, copses, and parterres which adorn the grounds 
around the President's residence, considering the company into 
which we have introduced him, I should expect to see, at least, 
a small diplomatic button on his working jacket. 

When these amendments came from the House, and were read 
at our table, though they caused a smile, they were yet adopt- 
ed, and the law passed, almost with the rapidity of a comet^ 
and with something like the same length of taiL 
18 • 


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Now, Sir, not one of these irregularities or incongruities, no 
part of this jumbling together of distinct and different subjects, 
was in the slightest degree occasioned by any thing done, or 
omitted to be done, on the part of the Senate. Their proceed- 
ings were all regular; their decision was prompt, their despatch of 
the public business correct and reasonable. There was nothing 
of disorganization, nothing of procrastination, nothing evincive 
of a temper to embarrass or obstruct the public business. If 
the history which I have now truly given shows that one thing 
was amended by another, which had no sort of connection with 
it; that unusual expedients were resorted to; and that the laws, 
instead of arrangement and symmetry, exhibit anomaly, confu- 
sion, and the most grotesque associations, it is nevertheless 
true, that no part of all this was made necessary by us. We 
deviated from the accustomed modes of legislation only when 
we were supplicated to do so, in order to supply bald and glar- 
ing deficiencies in measures which were before us. 

But now, Mr. President, let me come to the fortification bill, 
the lost bill, which not only now, but on a graver occasion, has 
been lamented like the lost Pleiad. 

This bill, Sir, came from the House of Representatives to the 
Senate in the usual way, and was referred to the Committee 
on Finance. Its appropriations were not lai^. Indeed, they 
appeared to the committee to be quite too small It struck a 
majority of the committee at once, that there were several for- 
tifications on the coast, either not provided for at all, or not 
adequately provided for, by this biU. The whole amount of 
its appropriations was four hundred or four hundred and thir- 
ty thousand dollars. It contained no grant of three millions, 
and if the Senate had passed it the very day it came from the 
House, not only would there have been no appropriation of the 
three millions, but. Sir, none of these other sums which the Sen- 
ate did insert in the bill. Others besides ourselves saw the defi- 
ciencies of this bill. We had communications with and from the 
departments, and we inserted in the bill every tiling which any 
department recommended to us. We took care to be sure that 
notliing else was coming. And we then reported the bill to the 
Senate with our proposed amendments. Among these amend- 
ments, there was a sum of $ 75,000 for CasUe Island, in Boston 
harbor, $ 100,000 for defences in Maryland, and so forth. These 


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amendments were agreed to by the Senate, and one or two oth- 
ers added, on the motion of members; and the bill, as thus 
amended, was returned to the House. 

And now. Sir, it becomes important to ask. When was this bill, 
thus amended, returned to the House of Representatives ? Was 
it unduly detained here, so that the House was obliged after- 
wands to act upon it suddenly ? This question is material to be 
asked, and material to be answered, too, and the journal does 
satisfactorily answer it ; for it appears by the journal that the 
bill was returned to the House of Representatives on Tuesday, 
the 24th of February, one whole week before the close of the 
session. And from Tuesday, the 24th of February, to Tuesday, 
the 3d day of March, we heard not one word from this bill. 
Tuesday, the 3d day of March, was, of course, the last day of 
the session. We assembled here at ten or eleven o'clock in the 
morning of that day, and sat until three in the afternoon, and 
still we were not informed whether the House had finally passed 
the bilL As it was an important matter, and belonged to that 
part of the public business which usually receives particular 
attention from the Committee on Finance, I bore the subject in 
my mind, and felt some solicitude about it, seeing that the 
session was drawing so near to a close. I took it for granted, 
however, as I had not heard any thing to the contrary, that the 
amendments of the Senate would not be objected to, and that, 
when a convenient time should arrive for taking up the bill in 
the House, it would be passed at once into a law, and we should 
hear no more about it Not the slightest intimation was given, 
either that the executive wished for any larger appropriation, or 
that it was intended in the House to insert such larger appropria- 
tion. Not a syllable escaped from any body, and came to our 
knowledge, that any further alteration whatever was intended in 

At three o'clock in the afternoon of the 3d of March, the Senate 
took its recess, as is usual in that period of the session, until 
five o'clock. At five o'clock we again assembled, and proceeded 
with the business of the Senate until eight o'clock in the evening ; 
and at eight o'clock in the evening, and not before, the derk of 
the House appeared at our door, and announced that the House 
of Representatives had disagreed to one of the Senate's amend- 
ments, agreed to others; and to two of those amendments, 


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namely, the fourth and fifth, it had agreed, with an amendment 
of its own. 

Now, Sir, these fourth and fifth amendments of ours were, 
one, a vote of $ 75,000 for Castle Island in Boston harbor, and 
the other, a vote of ^ 100,000 for certain defences in Maryland. 
And what, Sir, was the addition which the House of Represent- 
atives proposed to make, by way of " amendment " to a vote of 
^ 75,000 for repairing the works in Boston harbor ? Here, Sir, 
it is: — 

" And be it farther enacted^ That the sum of three millions of dol- 
lars be, and the same is hereby, appropriated, out of any money in the 
treasury not otherwise appropriated, to be expended, in whole or in 
part, under the direction of the President of the United States, for the 
military and naval service, including fortifications and ordnance, and the 
increase of the navy : Provided^ such expenditures shall be rendered 
necessary for the defence of the country prior to the next meeting of 

This proposition, Sir, was thus unexpectedly and suddenly put 
to us, at eight o'clock in the evening of the last day of the ses- 
sion. Unusual, unprecedented, extraordinary, as it obviously is, 
on the face of it, the manner of presenting it was still more ex- 
traordinary. The President had asked for no such grant of 
money ; no department had recommended it ; no estimate had 
suggested it ; no reason whatever was given for it. No emer- 
gency had happened, and nothing new had occurred; every 
thing known to the administration, at that hour, respecting our 
foreign relations, had certainly been known to it for days and 

With what propriety, then, could the Senate be called on to 
sanction a proceeding so entirely irregular and anomalous ? Sir, 
I recollect the occurrences of the moment very well, and I re- 
member the impression which this vote of the House seemed to 
make all round the Senate. We had just come out of execu- 
tive session ; the doors were but just opened ; and I hardly re- 
member that there was a single spectator in the hall or the gal- 
leries. I had been at the clerk's table, and had not reached my 
seat, when the message was read. All the Senators were in the 
chamber. I heard the message, certainly with great surprise and 
astonishment ; and I immediately moved the Senate to disagree 


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to this vote of the House. My relation to the subject, in conse- 
quence of my connection with the CJommittee on Finance, made 
it my duty to propose some course, and I had not a moment's 
doubt or hesitation what that course ought to be. I took upon 
myself, then. Sir, the responsibility of moving that the Senate 
should disagree to this vote, and I now acknowledge that re- 
sponsibility. It might be presumptuous to say that I took a 
leading part, but I certainly took an early part, a decided part, 
and an earnest part, in rejecting this broad grant of three mil- 
lions of doUars, without limitation of purpose or specification 
of object, called for by no recommendation, founded on no esti- 
mate, made necessary by no state of things which was known 
to us. Certainly, Sir, I took a part in its rejection; and I 
stand here, in my place in the Senate, to-day, ready to defend 
the part so taken by me ; or, rather. Sir, I disclaim all defence, 
and all occasion of defence, and I assert it as meritorious to 
have been among those who arrested, at the earliest moment, 
this extraordinary departure from aU settled usage, and, as I 
think, from plain constitutional injunction; this indefinite vot- 
ing of a vast sum of money to mere executive discretion, with- 
out limit assigned, without object specified, without reason 
given, and without the least control. 

Sir, I am told, that, in opposing this grant, I spoke with 
warmth, and I suppose I may have done so. If I did, it was a 
warmth springing from as honest a conviction of duty as ever 
influenced a public man. It was spontaneous, unaffected, sin- 
cere. There had been among us, Sir, no consultation, no con- 
cert There could have been none. Between the reading of the 
message and my motion to disagree, there was not time enough 
for any two members of the Senate to exchange five words on 
the subject The proposition was sudden and perfectly unex- 
pected. I resisted it, as irregular, as dangerous in itself, and 
dangerous in its precedent ; as wholly unnecessary, and as vio- 
lating the plain intention, if not the express words, of the Con- 
stitution. Before the Senate, then, I avowed, and before the 
country I now avow, my part in this opposition. Whatsoever 
is to fall on those who sanctioned it, of that let me have my full 

The Senate, Sir, rejected this grant by a vote of twenty-nine 
against nineteen. Those twenty-nine names are on the journal; 


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and whensoever the expunging process may commence, or how 
far soever it may be carried, I pray it, in mercy, not to erase 
mine from that record. I beseech it, in its sparing goodness, to 
leave me that proof of attachment to duty and to principle. It 
may draw around it, over it, or through it, black lines, or red 
lines, or any lines ; it may mark it in any way which either the 
most prostrate and fantastical spirit of mcm'taorshipj or the most 
ingenious and elaborate study of self-degradation, may devise, if * 
only it will leave it so that those who inherit my blood, or who 
may hereafter care for my reputation, shall be able to behold it 
where it now stands. 

The House, Sir, insisted on this amendment. The Senate 
adhered to its disagreement ; the House asked a conference, to 
which request the Senate immediately acceded. The commit- 
tee of conference met, and in a very short time came to an 
agreement They agreed to recommend to theur respective 
houses, as a substitute for the vote proposed by the House, the 
following : — 

" As an additional appropriation for arming the fortifications 
of the United States, three hundred thousand dollars." 

" As an additional appropriation for the repairs and equip- 
ment of ships of war of the United States, five hundred thousand 

I immediately reported this agreement of the committee ol 
conference to the Senate; but, inasmuch as the bill was in the 
House of Representatives, the Senate could not act further on 
the matter until the House should first have considered the re- 
port of the committee, decided thereon, and sent us the bill. I 
did not myself take any note of the particular hour of this part 
of the transaction. The honorable member bom Virginia* says 
he looked at his watch at the time, and he knows that I had 
come from the conference, and was in my seat, at a quarter past 
eleven. I have no reason to think that he is under any mistake 
on this particular. He says it so happened that he had occasion 
to takfe notice of the hour, and well remembers it. It could not 
well have been later than this, as any one will be satisfied who 
will look at our journals, public and executive, and see what a 
mass of business was despatched after I came from the commit* 

• Mr. Leigh. 

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tee, and before the adjournment of the Senate. Having made 
the report, Sir, I had no doubt that both houses would concur 
in the result of the conference, and looked every moment for the 
officer of the House bringing the bilL He did not come, how- 
ever, and I pretty soon learned that there was doubt whether 
the committee on the part of the, House would report to the 
House the agreement of the conferees. At first, I did not at all 
credit this; but was confirmed by one communication after 
another, until I was obliged to think it true. Seeing that the 
bill was thus in danger of being lost, and intending at any rate 
that no blame should justly attach to the Senate, I immediately 
moved the following resolution : — 

" Resolved^ That a message be sent to the honorable the 
House of Bepresentatives, respectfully to remind the House of 
the report of the committee of conference appointed on the disa- 
greeing votes of the two houses on the amendment of the House 
to the amendment of the Senate to the bill respecting the for- 
tifications of the United States.'' 

You recollect this resolution, Sir, having, as I well remember, 
taken some part on the occasion.* 

This resolution was promptly passed; the secretary carried 
it to tiie House, and delivered it. What was done in the House 
on the receipt of this message now appears firom the printed 
joumaL I have no wish to comment on the proceedings there 
recorded ; all may read them, and each be able to form his own 
opinion. Suffice it to say, that the House of Representatives, 
having then possession of the bill, chose to retain that posses- 
sion, and never acted on the report of the committee of confer- 
ence. The bill, therefore, was lost. It was lost in the House 
of Representatives. It died there, and there its remains are to 
be found. No opportunity was given to the members of the 
House to decide whether they would agree to the report of the 
committee or not. Prom a quarter past eleven, when the report 
was agreed to, until two or three o'clock in the morning, the 
House remained in session. If at any time there was not a 
quorum of members present, the attendance of a quorum, we 
are to presume, might have been commanded, as there waa 
undoubtedly a great majority of members still in the city. 

* Mr. King, of Alabama, waa in the chair. 


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But, Sir, there is one other transaction of the evening which 
I now feel bound to state, because I think it quite important 
on several accounts, that it should be known. 

A nomination was pending before the Senate for a judge of 
the Supreme Court. In the course of the sitting, that nomina- 
tion was called up, and, on motion, was indefinitely postponed. 
In other words, it was rejected ; for an indefinite postponement 
is a rejection. The office, of course, remained vacant, and the 
nomination of another person to fill it became necessary. The 
President of the United States was then in the Capitol, as is 
usual on the evening of the last day of the session, in the 
chamber assigned to him, and with the heads of departments 
around him. When nominations are rejected under these cir- 
cumstances, it has been usual for the President immediately to 
transmit a new nomination to the Senate ; otherwise the office 
must remain vacant till the next session, as the vacancy in such 
case has not happened in the recess of Congress. The vote of 
the Senate, indefinitely postponing this nomination, was carried 
to the President's room by the secretary of the Senate. The 
President told the secretary that it was more than an hour past 
twelve o'clock, and that he coidd receive no further communica- 
tions from the Senate, and immediately after, as I have under- 
stood, left the CapitoL The secretary brought back the paper 
containing the certified copy of the vote of the Senate, and in- 
dorsed thereon the substance of the President's answer, and also 
added, that, according to his own watch, it was quarter past one 

There are two views, Sir, in which this occurrence may well 
deserve to be noticed. One is as to the connection which it 
may perhaps have had with the loss of the fortification bill ; the 
other is as to its general importance, as introducing a new rule, or 
a new practice, respecting the intercourse between the President 
and the two houses of Congress on the last day of the session. 

On the first point, I shall only observe that the fact of the 
President's having declined to receive this communication firom 
the Senate, and of his having left the Capitol, was immediately 
known in the House of Representatives. It was quite obvious, 
that, if he could not receive a communication from the Sen- 
ate, neither could he receive a bill from the House of Repre- 
sentatives for his signature. It was equally obvious, ihat, if, 


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nnder these circumstances, the House of Representatives should 
agree to the report of the committee of conference, so that the 
bill should pass, it must, nevertheless, fail to become a law for 
want of the President's signature ; and that, in that case, the 
blame of losing the bill, on whomsoever else it might fall, could 
not be laid upon the Senate. 

On the more general point, I must say, Sir, that this decision 
of the President, not to hold communication with the houses of 
Congress after twelve o'clock at night, on the 3d of March, is 
quite new. No such objection has ever been made before hj 
any President No one of them has ever declined communicat- 
ing with either house at any time during the continuance of its 
session on that day. All Presidents heretofore have left with 
the houses themselves to fix their hour of adjournment, and to 
bring their session for the day to a close, whenever they saw fit. 

It is notorious, in point of fact, that nothing is more common 
than for both houses to sit later than twelve o'clock, for the pur- 
pose of completing measures which are in the last stages of their 
progress. Amendments are proposed and agreed to, bills passed, 
enrolled bills signed by the presiding oflScers, and other impor- 
tant legislative acts performed, often at two or three o'clock in 
the morning. All this is very well known to gentlemen who 
have been for any considerable time members of Congress. 
And all Presidents have signed bills, and have also made nomi- 
nations to the Senate, without objection as to time, whenever 
bills have been presented for signature, or whenever it became 
necessary to make nominations to the Senate, at any time dur- 
ing the session of the respective houses on that day. 

And all this. Sir, I suppose to be perfectly right, correct, and 
legaL There is no clause of the Constitution, nor is there any 
law, which declares that the term of office of members of the 
House of Representatives shall expire at twelve o'clock at night 
on the 3d of March. They are to hold for two years, but the 
precise hour for the commencement of that term of two years is 
nowhere fixed by constitutional or legal provision. It has been 
established by usage and by inference, and very properly estab- 
lished, that, since the first Congress commenced its existence 
on the first Wednesday in March, 1789, which happened to be 
the fourth day of the month, therefore the 4th of March is the 
day of the commencement of each successive term ; but no hour 

VOL. IV. 19 


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is fixed by law or practice. The true rule is, as I think, most 
undoubtedly, that the session held on the last day .constitutes 
the last day for all legislative and legal purposes. While the 
session begun on that day continues, the day itself continues, 
according to the established practice both of legislative and judi- 
cial bodies. This could not well be otherwise. If the precise 
moment of actual time were to settle such a matter, it would be 
material to ask. Who shall settle the time ? Shall it be done by 
public authority, or shall every man observe the tick of his own 
watch ? K absolute time is to furnish a precise rule, the excess 
of a minute, it is obvious, would be as fatal as the excess of an 
hour. Sir, no bodies, judicial or legislative, have ever been so 
hypercritical, so astute to no purpose, so much more nice than 
wise, as to govern themselves by any such ideas. The session 
for the day, at whatever hour it commences, or at whatever hour 
it breaks up, is the legislative day. Every thing has reference to 
the commencement of that diurnal session. For instance, this 
is the 14th day of January ; we assembled here to-day at twelve 
o'clock ; our journal is dated January 14th, and if we should re- 
main here until five o'clock tQ-morrow morning (and the Senate 
has sometimes sat so late), our proceedings would still bear date 
of the 14th of January ; they would be so stated upon the jour- 
nal, and the journal is a record, and is a conclusive record, so far 
as respects the proceedings of the body. 

It is so in judicial proceedings. If a man were on trial for his 
life, at a late hour on the last day allowed by law for the hold- 
ing of the court, and the jury should acquit him, but happened 
to remain so long in deliberation that they did not bring in their 
verdict till after twelve o'clock, is it all to be held for naught, 
and the man to be tried over again? Are all verdicts, judg- 
ments, and orders of courts null and void, if made after mid- 
night on the day which the law prescribes as the last day ? It 
would be easy to show by authority, if authority could be 
wanted for a thing the reason of which is so clear, that the day 
lasts while the daily session lasts. When the court or the legis- 
lative body adjourns for that day, the day is over, and not before. 

I am told, indeed. Sir, that it is true that, on this same 3d day 
of March last, not only were other things transacted, but that 
the bill for the repair of the Cumberland Road, an important and 
much litigated measure, actually received the signature of our 


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presiding officer after twelve o'clock, was then sent to the Presi- 
dent, and signed by him. I do not affirm this, because I took 
no notice of the time, or do not remember it if I did ; but I have 
heard the matter so stated. 

I see no reason, Sir, for the introduction of this new practice ; 
no principle on which it can be justified, no necessity for it, no 
propriety in it. As yet, it has been applied only to the Presi- 
dent's intercourse with the Senate. Certainly it is equally ap- 
plicable to his intercourse with both houses in legislative mat- 
ters ; and if it is to prevail hereafter, it is of much importance 
that it should be known. 

The President of the United States, Sir, has alluded to this 
loss of the fortification bill in his message at the opening of the 
session, and he has alluded, also, in the same message, to the 
rejection of the vote of the three millions. On the first point, 
that is, the loss of the whole bill, and the causes of that loss, 
this is his language : << Much loss and inconvenience have been 
experienced in consequence of the failure of the bill containing 
the ordinary appropriations for fortifications, which passed one 
branch of the national legislature at the last session, but was 
lost in the other." 

If the President intended to say that the bill, having origi- 
nated in the House of Representatives, passed the Senate, and 
was yet afterwards lost in the House of Representatives, he was 
entirely correct But he has been whoDy misinformed, if he in- 
tended to state that the bill, having passed the House, was lost 
in the Senate. As I have already stated, the bill was lost in 
the House of Representatives. It drew its last breath there. 
That House never let go its hold on it after the report of the 
committee of conference. But it held it, it retained it, and of 
course it died in its possession when the House adjourned. It 
is to be regretted that the President should have been misin- 
formed in a matter of this kind, when the slightest reference to 
the journals of the two houses would have exhibited, the correct 
history of the transaction. 

I recur again, Mr. President, to the proposed grant of ttie 
three millions, for the purpose of stating somewhat more dis- 
tinctly the true grounds of objection to that grant 

These grounds of objection were two ; the first was, that no 
such appropriation had been recommended by the President, or 


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any of the departments. And what made this ground the 
stronger was, that the proposed grant was defended, so far as it 
was defended at all, upon an alleged necessity, growing out of 
our foreign relations. The foreign relations of the country are 
intrusted by the Constitution to the lead and management of 
the executive government The President not only is supposed 
to be, but usually is, much better informed on these interesting 
subjects than the houses of Congress. K there be danger of a 
rupture with a foreign state, he sees it soonest All our min- 
isters and agents abroad are but so many eyes, and ears, and 
organs to communicate to him whatsoever occurs in foreign 
places, and to keep him well advised of aU which may concern 
the interests of the United States. There is an especial proprie- 
ty, therefore, that, in this branch of the public service, Congress 
should always be able to avail itself of the distinct opinions 
and recommendations of the President The two houses, and 
especially the House of Representatives, are the natural guar- 
dians of the people's money. They are to keep it sacred, and 
to use it discreetly. They are not at liberty to spend it where 
it is not needed, nor to offer it for any purpose till a reasonable 
occasion for the expenditure be shown. Now, in this case, I re- 
peat again, the President had sent us no recommendation for 
any such appropriation ; no department had recommended it ; 
no estimate had contained it ; in the whole history of the ses- 
sion, from the morning of the first day, down to eight o'clock in 
the evening of the last day, not one syllable had been said to us, 
not one hint suggested, showing that the President deemed any 
such measure either necessary or proper. I state this strongly, 
Sir, but I state it truly. I state the matter as it is ; and I wish 
to draw the attention of the Senate and of the country strongly 
to this part of the case. I ^say again, therefore, that, when this 
vote for the three millions was proposed to the Senate, there 
was nothing before us showing that the President recommend- 
ed any such appropriation. You very well know. Sir, that this 
objection was stated as soon as the message from the House 
was read. We all well remember that this was the very point 
put forth by the honorable member from Tennessee,* as being, 
if I may say so, the but-end of Ms argument in opposition to 

• Mr. White. 


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tiie vote. He said, very significantly, and very forcibly, " It is 
not asked for by those who best know what the public service 
requires; how, then, are we to presume that it is needed?" 
This question. Sir, was not answered then; it never has been an- 
swered since ; it never can be answered satisfactorily. 

But let me here again. Sir, recur to the message of the Presi- 
dent. Speaking of the loss of the bill, he uses these words : 
" This failure was the more regretted, not only because it ne- 
cessarily interrupted and delayed the progress of a system of 
national defence projected immediately after the last war, and 
since steadily pursued, but also because it contained a contin- 
gent appropriation, inserted in accordance with the views of the 
executive, in aid of this important object, and other branches of 
the national defence, some portions of which might have been 
roost useftdly applied during the past season.'* 

Taking these words of the message. Sir, and connecting them 
with the fact that the President had made no recommendation 
to Congress of any such appropriation, it strikes me that they fur- 
nish matter for very grave reflection. The President says that 
this proposed appropriation was " in accordance with the views 
of the executive ^ ; that it was ** in aid of an important object " ; 
and that " some portions of it might have been most usefuUy 
applied during the past season." 

And now. Sir, I ask, if this be so, why was not this appropri- 
ation recommended to CJongress by the President ? I ask this 
question in the name of the Constitution of the United States ; 
I stand on its own clear authority in asking it ; and I invite 
all those who remember its injunctions, and who mean to re- 
spect them, to consider well how the question is to be an- 

Sir, the Constitution is not yet an entire dead letter. There 
is yet some form of observance of its requirements ; and 
even while any degree of formal respect is paid to it, I must 
be permitted to continue the question, Why was not this ap- 
propriation recommended? It was in accordance with the 
President's views; it was for an important object; it might 
have been nsefuUy expended. The President being of opinion, 
therefore, that the appropriation was necessary and proper, how 
is it that it was not recommended to Congress ? For, Sir, we 
all know the plain and direct words in which the very first duty 


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of the President is imposed by the ConstitutioiL Here they 
are: — 

" He shall, from time to time, give to the Congress infonna- 
tion of the state of the Union, and recommend to their con- 
sideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expe- 

After enumerating the powers of the President, this is the first, 
the very first duty which the Constitution gravely enjoins upon 
him. And now. Sir, in no language of taunt or reproach, in no 
language of party attack, in terms of no asperity or exaggera- 
tion, but called upon by the necessity of defending my own 
vote upon the subject, as a public man, as a member of Con- 
gress here in my place, and as a citizen who feels as warm an 
attachment to the Constitution of the country as any other can, 
I demand of any who may choose to give it an answer to this 
question : Why was not this measure, which the President 

MENDED TO Congress? And why am I, and why are other 
members of Congress, whose path of duty the Constitution says 
shall be enlightened by the President's opinions and communica- 
tions, to be charged with want of patriotism and want of fidel- 
ity to the country, because we refused an appropriation which 
the President, though it was in accordance with his views, and 
though he believed it important, would not, and did not, recom- 
mend to us ? When these questions are answered to the satis- 
faction of intelligent and impartial men, then, and not till then, 
let reproach, let censure, let suspicion of any kind, rest on the 
twenty-nine names which stand opposed to this appropriation. 

How, Sir, were we to know that this appropriation " was in 
accordance with the views of the executive " ? He had not so 
told us, formally or informally. He had not only not recom- 
mended it to Congress, or either house of Congress, but nobody 
on this floor had undertaken to speak in his behalf. No man 
got up to say, " The President d,esires it ; he thinks it necessary, 
expedient, and proper." But, Sir, if any gentleman had risen to 
say this, it would not have answered the requisition of the Con- 
stitution. Not at alL It is not by a hint, an intimation, the 
suggestion of a friend, that the executive duty in this respect 
is to be fulfilled. By no means. The President is to make a 
re(X)mmendation ; a public recommendation, an official recom- 


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mendation, a responsible recommendation, not to one house, bnt 
to both houses ; it is to be a recommendation to Congress. If, 
on receiving such recommendation, Congress fail to pay it proper 
respect, the fault is theirs. If, deeming the measure necessary 
and expedient, the President fails to recommend it, the fault is 
his, clearly, distinctly, and exclusively his. This, Sur, is the Con- 
stitution of the United States, or else I do not understand the 
Constitution of the United States. 

Does not every man see how entirely unconstitutional it is 
that the President should communicate his opinions or wishes 
to Congress, on such grave and important subjects, otherwise 
than by a direct and responsible recommendation, a public and 
open recommendation, equally addressed and equally known to 
all whose duty calls upon them to act on the subject ? What 
would be the state of things, if he might communicate his 
wishes or opinions privately to members of one house, and make 
no such communication to the other? Would not the two 
houses be necessarily put in immediate collision ? Would they 
stand on equal footing ? Would they have equal information ? 
What could ensue from such a manner of conducting the pub- 
Kc business, but quarrel, confusion, and conflict? A member 
rises in the House of Representatives, and moves a very large 
appropriation of money for military purposes. If he says he 
does it upon executive recommendation, where is his voucher? 
The President is not like the British king, whose ministers and 
secretaries are in the House of Commons, and who are author- 
ized, in certain cases, to express the opinions and wishes of their 
sovereign. We have no king's servants ; at least, we have none 
known to the Constitution. Congress can know the opinions 
of the President only as he oflScially communicates them. It 
would be a curious inquiry in either house, when a large appro- 
priation is moved, if it were necessary to ask whether the mover 
represented the President, spoke his sentiments, or, in other 
words, whether what he proposed were " in accordance with the 
views of the executive." How could that be judged of? By 
the party he belongs to? Party is not quite strongly enough 
marked for that By the airs he gives himself? Many might 
assume airs, if thereby they could give themselves such impor- 
tance as to be esteemed authentic expositors of the executive 
wilL Or is this will to be circulated in whispers ; made known 


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to the meetings of party men ; intimated through the press ; or 
communicated in any other form, which still leaves the execn- 
tive completely irresponsible ; so that, while executive purposes 
or wishes pervade the ranks of party friends, influence their con- 
duct, and unite their efforts, the open, direct, and constitutional 
responsibility is wholly avoided ? Sir, this is not the Constitu- 
tion of the United States, nor can it be consistent with any con- 
stitution which professes to maintain separate departments in 
the government. 

Here, then. Sir, is abundant ground, in my judgment, for the 
vote of the Senate, and here I might rest it. But there is also 
another ground. The Constitution declares that no money 
shall be drawn from the treasury but in consequence of appro- 
priations made by law. What is meant by ^ appropriations " ? 
Does not this language mean that particular sums shall be as- 
signed by law to particular objects? How far this pointing 
out and fixing the particular objects shall be carried, is a ques- 
tion that cannot be settled by any precise rule. But " specific 
appropriation," that is to say, the designation of every object 
for which money is voted, as far as such designation is practica- 
ble, has been thought to be a most important republican princi- 
ple. In times past, popular parties have claimed great merit 
from professing to carry this doctrine much farther, and to adhere 
to it much more strictly, than their adversaries. Mr. Jefierson, 
especially, was a great advocate for it, and held it to be indispen- 
sable to a safe and economical administration and disbursement 
of the public revenues. 

But what have the friends and admirers of Mr. Jefferson to 
say to this appropriation ? Where do they find, in this proposed 
grant of three millions, a constitutional designation of object, 
and a particular and specific application of money ? Have they 
forgotten, all forgotten, and wholly abandoned even all pretence 
for specific appropriation ? If not, how could they sanction such 
a vote as this ? Let me recall ite terms. They are, that " the 
sum of three millions of dollars be, and the same is hereby, ap- 
propriated, out of any money in the treasury not otherwise appro- 
priated, to be expended, in whole or in part, under the direction 
of the President of the United States, for the military and naval 
service, including fortifications and ordnance, and the increase of 
the navy ; provided such expenditures shall be rendered neces- 


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saiy for the defence of the country prior to the next meeting of 

In the first place it is to be observed, that whether the money 
shall be used at all, or not, is made to depend on the discretion 
of the President This is suflSciently liberal. It carries confi- 
dence far enough. But if there had been no other objections, 
if the objects of the appropriation had been suflSciently described, 
so that the President, if he expended the money at all, must 
expend it for purposes authorized by the legislature, and noth- 
ing had been left to his discretion but the question whether 
an emergency had arisen in which the authority ought to be 
exercised, I might not have felt bound to reject the vote. There 
are some precedents which might favor such a contingent provis- 
ion, though the practice is dangerous, and ought not to be fol- 
lowed except in cases of clear necessity. 

But the insurmountable objection to the proposed grant was, 
that it specified no objects. It was as general as language could 
make it It embraced every expenditure that could be called 
either military or naval. It was to include " fortifications, ord- 
nance, and the increase of the navy," but it was not confined 
to these. It embraced the whole general subject of military ser- 
vice. Under the authority of such a law, the President might 
repair ships, build ships, buy ships, enlist seamen, and do any 
thing and every thing else touching the naval service, without 
restraint or control 

He might repair such fortifications as he saw fit, and neglect 
the rest ; arm such as he saw fit, and neglect the arming of oth- 
ers; or build new fortifications wherever he chose. But these 
nnlimited powers over the fortifications and the navy constitute 
by no means the most dangerous part of the proposed authority ; 
because, under that authority, his power to raise and employ 
land forces would be equally absolute and uncontroUed. He 
might levy troops, embody a new army, call out the militia in 
numbers to suit his own discretion, and employ them as he 
saw fit 

Now, Sir, does our legislation, under the CJonstitution, furnish 
any precedent for all this ? 

We make appropriations for the army, and we understand 
what we are doing, because it is " the army," that is to say, 
the army established by law. We make appropriations for the 


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navy ; they, too, are for " the navy," as provided for and estab- 
lished by law. We make appropriations for fortifications, but 
we say what fortifications, and we assign to each its intended 
amount of the whole sum. This is the usual course of Congress 
on such subjects ; and why should it be departed from ? Are 
we ready to say that the power of fixing the places for new for- 
tifications, and the sum aDotted to each ; the power of ordering 
new ships to be built, and fixing the number of such new ships ; 
the power of laying out money to raise men for the army ; in 
short, every power, great or small, respecting the military and 
naval service, shall be vested in the President, without specifica- 
tion of object or purpose, to the entire exclusion of the exercise 
of all judgment on the part of Congress ? For one, I am not 
prepared. The honorable member from Ohio, near roe, has 
said, that if the enemy had been on our shores he would not 
have agreed to this vote. And I say, if the proposition were 
now before us, and the guns of the enemy were pointed against 
the waDs of the Capitol, I would not agree to it 

The people of this country have an interest, a property, an in- 
heritance, in this INSTRUMENT, against the value of which forty 
capitols do not weigh the twentieth part of one poor scruple. 
There can never be any necessity for such proceedings but a 
feigned and false necessity ; a mere idle and hoUow pretence of 
necessity; least of all can it be said that any such necessity 
actually existed on the 3d of March. There was no enemy on 
our shores; there were no guns pointed against the Capitol; we 
were in no war, nor was there a reasonable probability that we 
should have war, unless we made it ourselves. 

But whatever was the state of our foreign relations, is it not 
preposterous to say, that it was necessary for Congress to adopt 
this measure, and yet not necessary for the President to recom- 
mend it ? Why should we thus run in advance of all our own 
duties, and leave the President completely shielded firom his 
just responsibility? Why should there be nothing but trust 
and confidence on our side, and nothing but discretion and 
power on his ? 

Sir, if there be any philosophy in history, if human blood still 
runs in human veins, if man still conforms to the identity of 
his nature, the institutions which secure constitutional liberty 
can never stand long against this excessive personal confidence. 


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against this devotion to men, in utter disregard both of principle 
and experience, which seem to me to be strongly characteristic 
of our times. This vote came to us, Sir, from the popular 
branch of the legislature ; and that such a vote should come 
from such a branch of the legislature was amongst the circum 
stances which excited in me the greatest surprise and the deep- 
est concern. Certainly, Sir, certainly I was not, on that ac-eount, 
the more inclined to concur. It was no argument with me, that 
others seemed to be rushing, with such heedless, headlong trust, 
such impetuosity of confidence, into the arms of executive pow- 
er. I held back the more strongly, and would hold back the 
longer. I see, or I think I see, — it is either a true vision of the 
future, revealed by the history of the past, or, if it be an illusion, 
it is an illusion which appears to me in all the brightness and 
sunlight of broad noon, — that it is in this career of personal con- 
fidence, along this beaten track of man-worship^ marked at every 
stage by the fragments of other free governments, that our own 
system is making progress to its close. A personal popularity, 
honorably earned at first by military achievements, and sus- 
tained now by party, by patronage, and by enthusiasm which 
looks for no ill, because it means no ill itself, seems to render 
men willing to gratify power, even before its demands are made, 
and to surfeit executive discretion, even in anticipation of its 
own appetite. 

If, Sir, on the 3d of March last, it had been the purpose of 
both bouses of Ck>ngress to create a military dictator, what for- 
mula had been better suited to their purpose than this vote of the 
House ? It is true, we might have given more money, if we had 
had it to give. We might have emptied the treasury ; but as to 
the form of the gift, we could not have bettered it. Rome had 
no better models. When we give our money for any military 
purpose whatever^ what remains to be done? If we leave it 
with one man to decide, not only whether the military means 
of the country shall be used at all, but how they shall be used, 
and to what extent they shall be employed, what remains either 
for Congress or the people but to sit still and see how this dicta" 
torial power will be exercised ? On the 3d of March, Sir, I had 
not forgotten, it was impossible that I should have forgotten, 
the recommendation in the message at the opening of that ses- 
Bion, that power should be vested in the President to issue let- 


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ters of marque and reprisal against France, at his discretion, in 
the recess of Congress. Happily, this power was not granted ; 
but suppose it had been, what would then have been the true 
condition of this government ? Why, Sir, this condition is very 
shortly described. The whole war power would have been in 
the hands of the President ; for no man can doubt a moment 
that reprisals would bring on immediate war ; and the treasury, 
to the amount of this vote, in addition to all ordinary appropria- 
tions, would have been at his absolute disposal also. And all 
this in a time of peace. I beseech all true lovers of constitutional 
liberty to contemplate this state of things, and tell me whether 
such be a truly republican administration of this government. 
"Whether particular consequences had ensued or not, is such an 
accumulation of power in the hands of the executive according 
to the spirit of our system ? Is it either wise or safe ? Has it 
any warrant in the practice of former times ? Or are gentlemen 
ready to establish the practice, as an example for the benefit of 
those who are to come after us ? 

But, Sir, if the power to make reprisals, and this money from 
the treasury, had both been granted, is there not great reason to 
believe that we should have been now actually at war? I think 
there is great reason to believe this. It wiU be said, I know, 
that if we had armed the President with this power of war, and 
supplied him with this grant of money, France would have 
taken it for such a proof of spirit on our part, that she would 
have paid the indemnity without further delay. This is the 
old story, and the old plea. It is the excuse of every one who 
desires more power than the Constitution or the laws give him, 
that if he had more power he could do more good. Power 
is always claimed for the good of the people ; and dictators are 
always made, when made at all, for the good of the people. 
For my part, Sir, I was content, and am content, to show 
France that we are prepared to maintain our just rights against 
her by the exertion of our power, when need be, according to the 
forms of our own Constitution ; that, if we make war, we will 
make it constitutionally ; and that we will trust all our interests, 
both in peace and war, to what the intelligence and the strength 
of the country may do for them, without breaking down or en- 
dangering the fabric of our free institutions. 

Mr. President, it is the misfortune of the Senate to have dif- 


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fered with the executive on many great questions during the last 
four or five years. I have regretted this state of things deeply, 
both on personal and on public accounts ; but it has been un- 
avoidable. It is no pleasant employment, it is no holiday busi- 
ness, to maintain opposition against power and against majori- 
ties, and to contend for stem and sturdy principle, against per- 
sonal popularity, against a rushing and overwhelming confi- 
dence, that, by wave upon wave and cataract after cataract, 
seems to be bearing away and destroying whatsoever would 
withstand it How much longer we may be able to support 
this opposition in any degree, or whether we can possibly hold 
out till the public intelligence and the public patriotism shall be 
awakened to a due sense of the public danger, it is not for me 
to foretell. I shall not despair to the last, if, in the mean time, 
we are true to our own principles. If there be a steadfast ad- 
herence to these principles, both here and elsewhere, if, one and 
all, they continue the rule of our conduct in the Senate, and the 
rallying-point of those who think with us and support us out 
of the Senate, I am content to hope on and to struggle on. 
While it remains a contest for the preservation of the Constitu- 
tion, for the security of public liberty, for the ascendency of 
principles over men, I am willing to bear my part of it If we 
can maintain the CJonstitution, if we can preserve this security 
for liberty, if we can thus give to true principle its just superior- 
ity over party, over persons, over names, our labors will be richly 
rewarded. If we fail in all this, they are already among the 
Uving who will write the history of this government, from its 
conmiencement to its close. 

VOL. IV. 20 


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Agreeably to notice, I oflFer sundry petitions on the subject 
of slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia, The 
first purports to be signed by two thousand four hundred and 
twenty-five of the female inhabitants of Boston. This petition 
is in the usual printed form. It is respectful to Congress, and 
contains no reproaches against any body. It asks for the con- 
sideration of Congress with respect both to the existence of slav- 
ery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia. 

The second is a petition signed by Joseph Filson, and about a 
hundred others, citizens of Boston, some of whom are known to 
me, and are highly respectable persons. The petition is to the 
same effect, and in the same form. 

The third petition appears to be signed by a large number of 
persons, inhabitants of Wayne County, in Michigan. I am not 
acquainted with them. It is a printed petition, different in form 
firom the preceding, drawn more at length, and going farther 
into the subject I perceive nothing in it disrespectful to the 
Senate, or reproachful to others. 

The fourth petition is like the first two in substance and in 
form. It is signed by four hundred and thirty-three citizens of 
Boston. Among these signers. Sir, I recognize the names of 
many persons well known to me a^ gentlemen of great worth 
and respectability. There are clergymen, lawyers, merchantsi 
literary men, manufacturers, and indeed persons from all classes 
of society. 

I ask, Sir, that these petitions may be received, and I move 

* RemarkB made in the Senate of the United States, on the 16th of Maxell 
1836, on presenting sundry Abolition Petitions. 


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Aa* fiiey be ireferred to the Committee on the District of Colum- 
bia. This motion itself, Sir, sufficiently shows in what man- 
ner I think this subject ought to be treated in the Senate. 

The petitioners ask Congress to consider the propriety and 
expediency of two things; first, of making provision for the 
extinction of slavery in the District; second, of abolishing or 
restraining the trade in slaves within the District. Similar peti- 
tions have already been received by the Senate. Those gentle- 
men who think Congress have no power over any part of the 
snbject, if they are clear and settled in that opinion, were per- 
fectly justifiable in voting not to receive them. Any petition 
which, in our opinion, asks us to do that which is plainly against 
the Constitution, we might very justly reject If persons, for in- 
stance, should petition us to pass a law abridging the freedom 
of the press, or respecting an establishment of religion, such 
petition would tery properly be denied any reception at all. 

In doubtful cases, we should incline to receive and consider ; 
because doubtful cases ought not to be decided without consid- 
eration. But I cannot regard this case as a doubtful one. I 
think the constitutional power of Congress over the subject is 
clear, and therefore that we were bound to receive the petitions. 
And a large majority of the Senate are abo of opinion, that 
petitions of this kind ought to be received. 

I have often, Mr. President, expressed the opinion, that over 
slavery, as it exists in the States, this government has no con- 
trol -whatever. It is entirely and exclusively a State concern. 
And while it is thus clear that Congress has no direct power 
over Hie subject, it is our duty to take care that the authority of 
this govemmettt is not brought to bear upon it by any indirect 
interference whatever. It must be left to the Statfes, to the 
course of things, and to those causes over which this govern- 
ment has no control. All this, in my opinion, is in the clear line 
of our duty. 

On the other hand, believing that Congress has constitutional 
power over slavery, and the trade in slaves, within the District, 
I think petitions on those subjects, respectfully presented, ought 
to be respectfully viewed, and respectfully considered. The 
respectful mode, the proper mode, is the ordinary mode. We 
have a committee on the affairs of the District. For very obvi- 
ous reasons, and without any reference to this question, this 


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committee is ordinarily composed principally of Southern gen- 
tlemen. For many years a member from Virginia or Mary- 
land has, I believe, been at the head of the committee. The 
committee, therefore, is the appropriate one, and there can be 
no possible objection to it on accowit of the manner in which 
it is constitated. 

Now I believe, Sir, that the mianimous opinion of the North 
is, that Congress has no authority over slavery in the States ; 
and it is perhaps equally unanimous in the opinion, that over 
slavery in the District it has such rightful authority. 

Then, Sir, the question is a question of the fitness, propriety, 
justice, and expediency of considering these two subjects, or 
either of them, according to the prayer of these petitions. 

It is well known to us and to the country, that Congress has 
hitherto entertained inquiries on both those points. On the 9th 
of January, 1809, the House of Representatives resolved, by 
very large majorities, " That the Committee on the District of 
Columbia be instructed to take into consideration the laws 
within the District in respect to slavery ; that they inquire into 
the slave trade as it exists in, and is carried on through, the Dis- 
trict; and that they report to the House such amendments to the 
existing laws as shall seem to them to be just" 

It resolved also, " That the committee be further instructed to 
inquire into the expediency of providing by law for the gradusd 
abolition of slavery within the District, in such manner that the 
interest of no individual shall be injured thereby.'' 

As early as March, 1816, the same House, on the motion of 
Mr. Randolph, of Virginia, resolved, " That a committee be ap- 
pointed to inquire into the existence of an inhuman and illegal 
traffic of slaves carried on in and through the District of Co- 
lumbia, and to report whether any, and what, measures are ne- 
cessary for putting a stop to the same." 

It is known, also. Sir, that the legislature of Pennsylvania 
has within a very few years urged upon Congress the propriety 
of providing for the abolition of slavery in the District The 
House of Assembly of New York, about the same timey I think, 
passed a similar vote. 

After these proceedings, Mr. President, which were generally 
known, I think the country was not at aU prepared to find that 
these petitions would be objected to, on the ground that they 


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asked for the exerdse of an authority on the part of Congress^ 
which Congress cannot constitationaUy exercise ; or that, having 
been formally received, the prayer of them, in regard to both 
objects, would be immediately rejected^ without reference to a 
committee, and without any inquiry. 

Now, Bir^ the propriety, justice, and fitness of any interference 
of Congress, for either of the purposes stated in the petitions, 
are the points on which, as it seems to me, it is highly proper 
for a committee to make a report The well-disposed and pa- 
triotic among these petitioners are entitied to be respectfully 
answered; and if there be among them others whose motives 
are less praiseworthy, it is not the part of prudence to give them 
the advantage which they Would derive from a right to com- 
plain that the Senate had acted hastily or summarily on their 
petitions, without inquiry or consideration^ 

Let the conmrittee set forth their own views on these points, 
dispassionately, folly, and candidly ; let the argument be seen 
and heard; let the people be trusted with it; and I have no 
doubt that a fair discussion of the subject will produce its proper 
effect, both in and out of the Seiiat& 

This, Bn-, would have been, and is, the C3ourse of proceeding 
which appears to me to be prudent and just The Senate, how- 
ever, having decided otherwise, by a very large majority, I only 
say so much, on the present occasion, as may suffice to make 
my own opinions known 

In reply to Mr. King of Alabama, Mr. Webster said : — 

I am not aware of having said any thing which can justify 
the remarks of the honorable member. By what authority does 
the gentieman say that I have placed myself at the head of 
these petitioners ? The gentieman cannot be allowed. Sir, to 
assign to me any place or any character which I do not choose 
to take to myself. I have only expressed my opinion as to the 
course which it is prudent and wise in us all to adopt, in dis- 
posing of these petitions. 

It is true that, while the question on the reception of the 
petitions was pending, I observed that I should hold back these 
petitions till that question was decided. It is decided. The 
Senate has decided to receive the petitions ; and being received, 
the manner of treating them must necessarily be settied. The 


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origin of the authority of CJongress over this District; the views 
and objects of the States in ceding the teiritory ; the little inter- 
est which this government has in the general question of slavery, 
and the great magnitude of the interest which individual States 
have in it ; the great danger to the government itself of agitat- 
ing the question here while things remain in their present pos- 
ture in the States around us, — these, Sir, are considerations all 
intimately belonging to the question, as I think, and which a 
competent committee would naturally present to the Senate 
and to the public 

Mr. President, I feel bound to make one farther remark. 
Whatever gentlemen may think of it, I assure them that these 
petitions, at least in many cases, have no factious origin, no 
political or party origin. Such may be the origin of some of 
them. I am quite sure it is not of all. Many of them arise 
from a sense of religious duty ; and that is a feeling which 
should be reasoned with, but cannot be suppressed by a mere 
summary exercise of authority. I wish that all reasonable men 
may be satisfied with our proceedings ; and that we may so act in 
regard to the whole matter as shaU promote harmony, strengthen 
the bonds of our Union, and increase the confidence, both of the 
North and ihe South, in this government 


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A STATEMENT of the affoiis of the deposit banks having been trans- 
mitted by the Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Webster moved that three 
thousand extra copies should be printed, and in support of this motion 
spoke as follows.: — 

Sib, — I wotdd^ in making this motion, call the attention of 
the Senate to the document from the treasury showing the state 
of the deposit banks at the latest dates, and from the tabular 
statement quote some of the leading facts. 

The immediate liabilities of the banks amount, it appears, 
to nearly seventy-two millions of dollars ; viz. the public deposits, 
$30,678,879.91; the private deposits, $15,043,033.64; the bills 
in circulation, $ 26,243,688.36. The amount of specie held by 
these banks, it further appears, is $10,198,659.24; tliat is to 
say, there is less than one dollar of specie for six dollars of 
debt; and there is due to the government by those banks more 
than three times the amount of aU the specie. There are other 
items which swell the amounts on each side, such as debts due 
to banks, and debts due from banks. But these are only equal- 
ling quantities, and of no moment in the view I am taking of 
the question. 

Among the means of these deposit banks I see an item of 
"other investments" of no less amount than $8,777,228.79. 
What is meant by these "other investments," I am not in- 
formed. I wish for light I have my suspicions, but I have no 
proofs. Sir, look at the reported state of the Farmers and Me- 
chanics' Bank of Michigan, the last in the list The capital of 

* EemftTks made m the Senate of the United States, on the Depoett Banks on 
the 17th of March, 1836. 


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that bank is only $ 150,000. Its portion of the public deposits is 
no less a sum than $ 784,764.75. Now, Sir, where is this money ? 
It is not in specie in the bank itself. All its specie is only 
% 51,011.95 ; all its discounts, loans, &c., are only ( 500,000, or 
thereabouts. Where is the residue ? Why, we see where it is ; it 
is included in the item " due from banks, $ 678,766.37." What 
banks have got this ? On what terms do they take it ? Do 
they give interest for it? Is it in the deposit banks in the great 
cities ? and does this make a part of the other liabilities of these 
deposit banks in the cities ? What are these other liabilities ? 
But as to these "other investments," I say again, I wish to 
know what they are. Besides real estate, loans, discount, and 
exchange, I beg to know what other investments banks usually 

In my opinion. Sir, the present system now begins to develop 
itself. We see what a complication of private and pecuniary in- 
terests have thus wound themselves around our finances. While 
the present state of things continues, or as it goes on, there 
will be no lack of ardor in opposing the land bill, or any 
other proposition for distributing or effectually using the public 

We have certainly arrived at a very extraordinary crisis ; a cri- 
sis which we must not trifle with. The accumulation of revenue 
must be prevented. Every wise politician will set that down as 
a cardinal maxim. How can it be prevented ? Fortifications 
will not do it This I am perfectly persuaded of. I shall vote 
for every part and parcel of the fortification bill, reported by 
the Military Committee. And yet I am sure, that, if that bill 
should pass into a law, it will not absorb the revenue or sufiS- 
dently diminish its amount Internal improvements cannot 
absorb it; these useful channels are blocked up by vetoes. 
How, then, is this revenue to be disposed of? I put this ques- 
tion seriously to all those who are inclined to oppose the land 
bill now before the Senate. 

Sir, look to the future, and see what will be the state of things 
next autumn. The accumulation of revenue may then probably 
be near fifty millions ; an amount equal, perhaps, to the whole 
amount of specie in the country. What a state of things is that! 
Every dollar in the country the property of government! 

Again, Sir, are gentlemen satisfied with the present oondi- 


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tion of the public money in regard to its safety ? Is that con- 
dition safe, commendable, and proper? The member from 
South Carolina has brought in a bill to regulate these deposit 
banks. I hope he will call it up, that we may at least have an 
opportunity of showing, for ourselves, what we think the exi- 
gency requires. 


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Mr. President, — I should be fully justified, in common with 
those with whom I am accustomed to act, in taking no active 
course in regard to this resolution ; in sitting still, suppressing, 
if possible, our surprise and astonishment, and letting these 
schemes and projects take the form of such laws as their projec- 
tors might propose. 

We are powerless now, and can do nothing. We have re- 
sisted since 1832 all these measures affecting the currency of the 
country and the security of the public treasure. We have done 
so unsuccessfully. We struggled for the recharter of the Bank 
of the United States in 1832. The utility of such an institu- 
tion had been proved by forty years' experience. We struggled 
against the removal of the deposits. That act, as we thought, 
was a direct usurpation of power. We strove against the ex- 
periment, and all in vain. Our opinions were disregarded, our 
warnings neglected, and we are now in no degree responsible for 
the mischiefs which are but too likely to ensue. 

Who will look with the perception of an intelligent, and the 
candor of an honest man, upon the present condition of our 
finances and currency, and say that this want of credit and con- 
fidence which is so general, and which, it is possible, may ere 
long overspread the land with bankruptcies and distress, has not 
flowed directly from those measures, the adoption of which we 
so strenuously resisted, and the folly of which men of all parties, 

* Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 23d of April, 
1836, on the following Resolution, submitted by Mr. Benton: — 

" Resolved, That, ftom and after the day of , in the year 1836, noth- 
ing but gold and silver ought to be received in payment for the public lands ; 
and that the Committee on Public Lands be instructed to report a bill accord- 


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however reluctantly, will soon be brought to acknowledge? 
The truth of this assertion is palpable and resistless. 

What, Sir, are the precise evils under which the finances of the 
government, and, I believe, of the counlary, now suffer? They 
are obviously two ; the superabundance of the treasury, and its 
msecurity. We have more money thaji we need, and that mon- 
ey, not being in custody under any law, and being in hands 
over which we have no control, is threatened with danger. Now, 
Sir, is it not manifest that these evils flow directly from meas- 
ures of government which some of us have zealously resisted ? 
May not each be traced to its distinct source ? There would 
have been no surplus in the treasury, but for the veto of the 
land biU, so called, of 1833. This is certain. And as to the 
security of the public money, it would have been at this mo- 
ment entirely safe, but for the veto of the act continuing the 
bank charter. Both these measures had re<;eived the sanction 
of Congress, by clear and large majorities. They were both neg- 
atived; the reign of experiments, schemes, and projects com- 
menced, and here we are. Every thing that is now amiss in our 
financial concerns is the direct consequence of extraordinary ex- 
ercises of executive authority. This assertion does not rest on 
general reasoning. Facts prove it One veto has deprived the 
government of a safe custody for the public moneys, and another 
veto has caused their present augmentation. 

What, Sir, are the evils which are distracting our financial 
operations ? They are obviously two. The public money is not 
safe; it is protected by no law. The treasury is overflowing. 
There is more money than we need. The currency is unsound. 
Credit has been diminished, and confidence destroyed. And 
what do these two evils, the insecurity of the public money and 
its abundance, result from ? They trace their origin directly to 
the two celebrated experiments ; the veto of the bank bill, fol- 
lowed by the removal of the deposits, and the rejection of the 
land bill. No man doubts that the public money would have 
remained safe in the Bank of the United States, if the executive 
veto of 1832 had not disturbed it 

It was that veto, also, which, by discontinuing the national 
bank, removed the great and salutary check to the immoderate 
issue of paper money, and enoouragedithe creation of so many 
State banks. This is another of the products of that veto. 


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This is as plain as that ; the rejection of the land bill of 1833^ 
by depriving the country of a proper, necessary, and equal dis- 
tribution of the surplus fund, has produced this redundancy in 
the treasury. If the wisdom of Congress had been trusted, the 
country would not have been plunged into its present difficul- 
ties. They devised the only means by which the peace and 
prosperity of the people could have been secured. They passed 
the bank charter ; it was negatived. They passed the land bill, 
and it met the same fate. This extraordinary exercise of power, 
in these two instances, has produced an exactly corresponding 
mischief, in each case, upon the subjects to which it was applied. 
Its application to the bill providing for the recharter of the Bank 
of the United States has been followed by the present insecu- 
rity of the public treasure, and a superabundance of money not 
wanted has been the consequence of its application to the land 

The country is the victim of schemes, projects, and reckless 
experiments. We are wiser, or we think ourselves so, than those 
who have gone before us. Experience cannot teach us. We 
cannot let well enough alone. The experience of forty years 
was insufficient to settle the question whether a national bank 
was useful or not; and forty years' practice of the government 
could not decide whether it was constitutional or not And 
it is worthy of all consideration, that undue power has been 
claimed by the executive. One thing is certain, and that is, 
there has been a constant and corresponding endeavor to dimin- 
ish the constitutional power of Congress. The bank charter was 
negatived, because Congress had no power under the Constitu- 
tion to grant it; and yet, though Congress had no authority to 
create a national bank, the executive at once exercised the power 
to select and appoint as many banks as he pleased, and to place 
the public moneys in their hands on just such terms and con- 
ditions as he pleased. 

There is not a more palpable evidence of the constant bias of 
this government to a wrong tendency, than this continued at- 
tempt to make legislative power yield to that of the executive. 
The restriction of the just authority of Congress is followed in 
every case by the increase of the power of the executive. What 
was it that caused the destruction of the United States Bank, 
and put the whole moneyed power of the country into the hands 


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of one man ? Constitutional doubts of the power of Congress ! 
What has produced this superabundance of money in the treas- 
nry ? Constitutional doubts of the power of Congress ! In the 
whole history of this administration, doctrines have prevailed, 
whose direct tendency is to detract from the settled and long- 
practised power of Congress, and to give in full measure, hand 
over hand, every thing into the control of the executive. Do 
gentlemen wish me to exemplify the truth of this ? Let them 
look at the bank bill, the land bill, and the various bills which 
have been negatived respecting internal improvements. 

Grentlemen now speak of returning to a specie basis. Does 
any man suppose it practicable ? The resolution now under 
consideration contemplates that, after the current year, all pay- 
ments for the public lands are to be made in specie. Now, if I 
had brought forward a proposition like this, I should at once have 
been accused of being opposed to the settlement of the new States. 
It would have been urged that speculators and capitalists could 
easily carry gold and silver to the West, by sea or land, while the 
cultivator, who wished to purchase a small farm, would be com- 
pelled to give the former their own price for the land, because he 
could not visit large cities, or other places where it was to be found, 
and procure the specie. These arguments, I am sure, would have 
met me, had I introduced a measure like this. If specie payments 
are to be made for public dues, I should suppose it best to begin 
with the customs, which are payable in large cities, where gold 
and silver can be more easily procured than on the frontiers. But 
whether from speculators or settlers, what is the use of these 
specie payments ? The money is dragged over the mountains 
to be dragged back again ; that is all. The purchaser of public 
lands ^svill buy gold by biUs on the Eastern cities ; it will go 
across the country in panniers or wagons ; the Land Office will 
send it back again by the return carriage, and thus create the 
useless expense of transportation. 

I have from the very first looked upon all these schemes as 
totally idle and illusory ; as not in accordance with the practice 
of other nations, or suited to our own policy, or our own active 
condition. But the effect of this resolution, what will it be ? 
Let them try it Let them go on. Let them add to the cat- 
alogue of projects. Let them cause every man in the West, 
who has a five-dollar bank-note in his pocket, to set oSj post 

VOL. IV. 21 


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haste, to the bank, lest somebody else should get there first, and 
get out all the money, and then buy land. How long will ihe 
Western banks stand this ? Yet, if gentiemen please, let them 
go on. I shall dissent ; I shall protest ; I shall speak my opin- 
ions ; but I shall still say, Gro on, gentlemen, and let us see the 
upshot of your experimental policy. 

The currency of the country is, to a great degree, in the powCT 
of the banking companies in the great cities. I am much op- 
posed to the increase of these institutions ; but the evil has be- 
gun, and cannot be averted. What one State does, another 
will do also. Danger and misfortune appear to be threatening 
the currency of the country; and although the Constitution 
gives the control over it to Congress, yet Congress is allowed to 
do nothing. Congress, and not the States, have the coining 
power ; yet the States issue paper as a substitute for coin, and 
Congress is not supposed to be able to regulate, control, or re- 
deem it. We have the sole power over the currency ; but we 
possess no means of exercising that power. Congress, accord- 
ing to the prevailing doctrines, can create no bank, regulated 
by law ; but the executive can appoint twenty or fifty banks, 
without any law whatever. A very peculiar state of things ex- 
ists in this country at this moment ; a country in the highest 
state of prosperity, more bountifully blest by Providence in all 
things than any other nation on earth, and yet in the midst of 
great pecuniary distress, its finances deranged, and an increasing 
want of confidence felt in its circulation. But the experiment 
was to cure all this. A few select and favorite banks were to 
give us a secure currency, one better and more practically ben- 
eficial than that of the United States Bank. And here is the 
result, or rather, to use the expression of M. de Talleyrand, here 
is " the beginning of the end." 

We were told that these banks would do as well, if not a great 
deal better, for all the purposes of exchange, than the United 
States Bank ; that they could negotiate as cheaply, and with as 
much safety ; and yet the rate is now one and a half, if not two 
per cent, between Cincinnati and New York. Indeed, exchariges 
are all deranged, and in confusion. Sometimes they are at high 
rates both ways, between two points. Looking, then, to the 
state of the currency, the insecurity of the public money, and 
the rates of exchange, let me ask any honest and intelligent 


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maa, of whatever party, What has been the result of these ex- 
periments ? Does any gentleman still doubt ? Let him look to 
the disclosures made by the circular of one of the deposit banks 
of Ohio, which was read by an honorable Senator here a day or 
two since. That bank will not receive the notes of the specie- 
paying banks of that State from the Land Office, as I under- 
stand the circular, or, at any rate, it tells the Land Office that it 
will not. Here are thirty or forty specie-paying banks in Ohio, 
all of good credit, and out of the whole number three are to be 
selected, entitled to no more confidence than the others, whose 
notes are to be taken for public lands. If gentlemen from the 
West and Southwest are satisfied with this arrangement, I cer- 
tainly greatly commend their quiescent temperament 

I said, in the commencement of my remarks, I know of noth- 
ing I can do in regard to the resolution, except to sit still and 
see how far gentlemen will go, and what this state of things 
will end in. Here is this vast surplus revenue under no control 
whatever, and from appearances, though the session is nearly 
over, likely to remain so. Two measures of the highest impor- 
tance have been proposed; one to diminish this fund, another to 
secure its safety. I wish to understand, and the country to 
know, whether any thing is to be done with either of these prop- 
ositions. For my own part, I believe that a national bank is 
the only security for the national treasure } but as there is no 
such institution, a more extended use should be made of this 
iTeasure, and in its distribution no preference should be given, 
as was the fact in the instance of the banks of Ohio, to which I 
have just alluded. In some way or other this fund must be dis- 
tributed. It is absolutely necessary. The provisions of the land 
bill seem to me eminently calculated to effect this object ; but if 
that measure shall not be adopted, I will give my vote for any 
proper and equitable measure which may be brought forward, 
let it come from what quarter it may. In all probability, there 
will be a diminution in the ai^nount of land sales for some time 
to come. The purchases of the last year, I suppose, have ex- 
ceeded the demands of emigration. They were made by specu- 
lators, for the purpose of holding up lands for increased prices. 
The spirit of speculation, indeed, seems to be very much directed 
to the acquisition of the public lands. I cannot say what will 
be the further progress, or where the end, of these things ; but 


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I think one thing quite clear, and that is, that the existing sur- 
plus ought to be distributed. 

I repeat, that I intend no detailed opposition to the measure 
now before the Senate ; and had I been in my seat, I should 
not have opposed the amendment to the pension bill. Let the 
experiments, one and all, have their course. I shall do nothing 
except to vote against all these visionary projects, until the 
country shall become convinced that a sound currency, and with 
it a general security for property and the earnings of honest 
labor, are things of too much importance to be sacrificed to 
mere projects, whether political or financial. 

After some remarks by Mr. Niles of Connecticut, and Mr. Benton of 
Missouri, Mr. Webster said : — 

The gentleman from Missouri has referred to the resolution 
of 1816; and I will beg leave to make a brief explanation in ref- 
erence to the part I bore in it The events of the war had great- 
ly deranged the currency of the country, and a great pecuniary 
pressure was felt from one end of the continent to the other. 
The war took place in 1812, and not two months of it had passed 
before there was a cessation of specie payments by at least two 
thirds of all the banks of the country. So strong was the pres- 
sure, that, although the enemy blockaded the Chesapeake, so 
that not a barrel of pork or flour could be sent to market, yet the 
prices of these articles rose fifty per cent. This state of things 
continued; the collectors of the customs everywhere received 
the notes of their own local banks for duties payable at their 
own places, but would not receive the bills of the banks of the 
other cities. And what was the consequence ? Why, at the 
close of the session of Congress, a member, if he had been fortu- 
nate enough to preserve any of his pay, had to give twenty-five 
per cent, to get the money received here exchanged for money 
that he could carry home. Another effect of this state of the 
currency was this. The Constitution provided that, in the reg- 
ulation of commerce or revenue, no preference should be given 
to the ports of one State over those of another. Yet Baltimore, 
for instance, which had the exchange against her, had an advan- 
tage, by the payment of her duties in the bills of her banks, of 
at least twenty-five per cent, over some Northern cities. The 
resolution then introduced by me was to provide that the reve- 


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nne should be equally paid in all parts of the United States ; 
and what was the effect of it? The bank bill had just passed, 
and the resolution was^ that all debts due the government 
should be paid in the legal coin, in notes of tiie Bank of the 
United States, or in notes of banks that paid coin on demand 
That was the operation of the resolution of 1816, rendered ab- 
solutely necessary by the existing state of thingsi 

The gentleman from Connecticut inquires whether the omis- 
sion to use the powers of Congress necessarily increases that 
of the executive. I will put a poser to the gentleman. The 
President himself admits that it is the appropriate duty of Con- 
gress to take the public treasure into its hands, and appoint 
agents to take care of it The gentleman himself must admit 
this, for I suppose that he does not go the lengths of the Sena- 
tor from Tennessee in being willing that things should remain 
as they were. Then, if it is their duty to take care of the na- 
tional treasure, and they do not do it, it will go into the hands 
of the executive. Is not the custody of the national treasure 
power? and if they neglect to use this power, do they not aug- 
ment the power of the executive ? 

The future historian of recent events in this country will find 
no topic more important and prominent, than a review of the 
dockines which have been advanced with regard to executive 
power, and the means employed to increase it The President 
himself first advanced the doctrine, and it has been repeated 
here, that the President is the sole representative of the peo- 
ple of the United States. Does the Constitution make him 
so? Does the Constitution acknowledge any other repre- 
sentative of the people than the members of the other house ? 
But it has been found extremely convenient to those who wish 
to increase the President's power to give him this title. This 
claim of the President reminds me of a remark made many 
years ago by a member of the House of Kepresentatives. That 
gentleman had voted against the first Bank of the United States, 
and had changed his mind, and was about to vote for the sec- 
ond. If, said the genileman, the people have given us the power 
to make a bank, we can do it; and if they have not, we are the 
representatives of the people, and can take the power. And 
this is the doctrine applied to the President as the peculiar rep- 
resentative of the people. The Constitution gives him a modi- 


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cum of power, and he, claiming the lion's part, takes all the rest 
This is the result of that overwhelming personal popularity 
which leads men to disregard all the received maxims of the 
founders of this government, and to yield up all power into the 
hands of one man. They cannot even now quote the doctrines 
of Mr. Jefferson without being scouted, and they cannot resist 
any power claimed by the executive, however arbitrary, but must 
yield up every thing to him by one universal confidence, be- 
cause he is the representative of the people. 

After further remarks by Mr. Niles, Mr. Webster said : — 

It is the best course, when a gentleman replies to another, to 
use his very words as far as his recollection permits him. I have 
noticed, on other occasions, that the Senator from Connecticut 
gives his own language as that of the gentleman he is replying 
to, puts his own construction upon it, and then replies to this 
man of straw. I hope that the gentleman will, when he quotes 
me in future, use my exact language, and not put into my 
mouth words that I do not use. The gentleman, in speaking 
of the President, used the term representative of the people pre- 
cisely in the meaning of the term as applied to a member of the 
House of Representatives. Now, it is impossible to believe in 
any idea of power pertaining to the President in this character. 
But I would remind the Senator that the President himself, in 
more than one communication, has claimed this character and 
power. It will be found in the Protest that he is the only single 
representative of the people. Sir, this is the very essence of 
consolidation, and in the worst of hands. Do we not all know 
that the people have not one representative? Do we not know 
that the States are divided into Congressional districts, each of 
which elects a representative, and that the States themselves are 
represented by two members on this floor? Do we not all 
know, that the framers of the Constitution carefully avoided 
giving him any such power at all ? I admit that the President, 
in reference to his popularity merely, is called, with great pro- 
priety, the representative of the people ; but in other respects 
he is no more so than was the President of the old Congress. 


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Mr. President, — I regret the warmth with which my friend 
from Ohiojf and my friend from Louisiana,:]: have spoken on 
this occasion ; but while I regret it, I can hardly say I blame 
it They have expressed disappointment, and I think they 
may well feel disappointment I confess, Sir, I feel disappoint- 
ment also. Looking to the magnitude of this object, looking 
to its highly interesting character to the West, looking to the 
great concern which our Western friends have manifested for its 
success, I myself feel, not only disappointment, but, in some de- 
gree, mortification, at the result of the vote which has now been 
taken. That vote, if it stands, must be decisive of the success 
of the measure. 

No doubt, Sir, it is altogether vain to pass this bill, unless it 
contain such provisions as will induce the stockholders in the 
corporation to part with their interests. 

In the first place. Sir, why do we hear so much reproach and 
denunciation against the members of this corporation ? Have 
they not hazarded their property in an undertaking of great 
importance and utility to the country? Has not CJongress 
itself encouraged their enterprise, by taking a part of the stock 
on account of the government? Are we not ourselves share- 
holders in this company ? Their tolls, it is said, are large ; that 
is true. Yet not only did they run all the risks usually attend- 
ing such enterprises, but, even with their large tolls, all their 
receipts, up to this hour, by no means give a return from their 

* Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the Bill to aathorize 
the Purchase, on the part of the Goyernment, of the Private Stock in the Loo- 
isrille and Portland Canal, on the 25th of May, 1836. 

t Mr. Ewing. J Mr. Porter. 


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capital equal to the ordinary interest of money in that part of 
the country. 

There appears to me very great injustice in speaking of their 
tolls as " fines," and " penalties," and unjust impositions, or of 
their charter as an odious monopoly. Who called it so, or 
who so thought of it, when it was granted to them ? Who but 
they were wiliing to. undertake the work, to advance ttie money, 
and to run the risks and chances of failure ? Who then blamed, 
reproached, or denounced the enterprising individuals who haz- 
arded their money in a project to make a canal around the Falls 
of the Ohio? Who then spoke of their tolls as impositions, 
fines, and penalties? Nobody, Sir. Then all was encourage- 
ment and cheering onward. The cry was then. Go on ! run the 
hazard; try the experiment; let our vessels and boats have a 
passage round this obstruction ; make an effort to overcome 
this great obstacle. If you fail, the loss, indeed, will be yours ; 
but if you succeed, all the world will agree that you ought to 
be fairly and fully remunerated for the risk and expenditure of 

Sir, we are bound in all justice and fairness to respect the legal 
rights of these corpomtors. For one, I not only respect their legal 
rights, but I honor their enterprise, I commend their persever- 
ance, and I think they deserve well of the community. 

But nevertheless. Sir, I am for making this navigation free. 
If there were no canal, I should be for making one, or for devis- 
ing other modes of removing the obstructions in the river. As 
there is a canal, now the subject of private ownersliip and pri- 
vate property, I am for buying it out, and opening it, toll free, 
to all who navigate the river. Li my opinion, this work is 
of importance enough to demand the attention of government 
To be sure it is but a c^nal, and a canal round the falls of a 
river ; but that river is the Ohio. It is one of those vast streams 
which form a part of the great water communication of the 
West It is one of those nmning seas which bear on their 
bosom the riches of Western commerce. It is a river; but to 
the uses of man, to the purposes of trade, to the great objects 
of communication, it is one of those rivers which has the char- 
acter of an ocean. Indeed, when one looks at the map, and 
glances his eye on all these rivers, he sees at once water enough 
to constitute or to fill an ocean, pouring from different, distant, 


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and numerous sources, and flowing many thousand miles, in 
various channels, with breadth and depth of water in each suf- 
ficient for all the purposes of rapid communication and exten- 
sive trade. And if, in any portion of these inland seas, we find 
obstructions which the hand of man can remove, who can say 
that such removal is not an object worthy the attention of gov- 
ernment ? 

Whoever, Mr. President, would do his duty, and his whole 
duty, in the councils of this government, must look upon the 
country as it is, in its whole length and breadth. He must 
comprehend it in its vast extent, its novel character, its sudden 
development, its amazing progress, confounding all calculation, 
and almost overwhelming the imagination. Our rivers are not 
the rivers of the European world. We have not to deal with 
the Trent, the Thames, and the Severn. With us, at least in 
this part of our country, navigation firom the sea does not stop 
^ehere the tide stops. Our ports and harbors are not at the 
mouths of rivers only, or at the head of the tides of the sea. 
Hundreds of miles, nay, thousands of miles, beyond the point 
vy'here the tides of the ocean are felt, deep waters spread out, 
and capacious harbors open themselves to the reception of a 
vast and increasing navigation. 

To be sure. Sir, this is a work of internal improvement ; but 
it is not on that account either the less constitutional or the less 
important Sir, I have taken a part in this great struggle for in- 
ternal improvement from the beginning, and I shall hold out to 
the end. Whoever may follow, or whoever may fly, I shall go 
straightforward for all those constitutional powers, and for all 
that liberal policy, which I have heretofore supported. 

I remember, Sir, and, indeed, a very short memory might re- 
tain the recollection, when the first appropriations for harbors on 
the great lakes were carried through this body, not without the 
utmost difficulty, and against the most determined opposition. 
I remember when Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and Lake Michi- 
gan were likely to be condemned to a continuance in the state 
in which nature and the Indian tribes had left them, with no 
proof upon their shores of the policy of a civilized state, no har- 
bors for the shelter of a hundred vessels, no light-house even to 
point out to the inland navigator the dangers of his course. I 
remember even when the harbor of Buffalo was looked upon 


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either as unimportant in itself or, if not unimportant, yet aa 
shut out from the care and the aid of Congress by a constitu- 
tional interdiction of works of internal improvement But, Sir, 
in this case, as in others, the doctrine of internal improvement 
has established itself by its own necessity, its own obvious and 
confessed utility, and the benefits which it has already so widely 
conferred. So it will be, I have no doubt, in the case before us. 
We shall wonder hereafter who could doubt the propriety of 
setting free tiie navigation of the Ohio, and shall wonder that it 
was delayed even so long. 

Mr. President, on the question of constitutional power, I en- 
tertain not a particle of doubt How is it, let me ask, that we 
appropriate money for harbors, piers, and breakwaters on the 
sea-coast? Where do we find power for this? Certainly in 
no part of the Constitution in which we cannot find equal 
power to pass this biH The same clause covers such appropri- 
ations, inland as well as on the searcoast, or else it covers nei- 
th^. We have foreign commerce, and we have internal com- 
merce ; and the power, and the duty also, of regulating, protect- 
ing, aiding, and fostering both, is given in the same words. For 
one, therefore. Sir, I look to the magnitude of the object, and not 
to its locality. I ask not whether it be east or west of the 
mountains. There are no AUeghanies in my politics. 

I caie not whether it be an improvement on the shore of the 
sea, or on the shore of one of those mighty rivers, so much like 
a sea, which flow through our vast interior. It is enough for me 
to know that the object is a good one, an important one, within 
the scope of our powers, and called for by the fair claims of our 
commerce. So that it be in the Union, so that it be within the 
twenty-four States, or the twenty-six States, it cannot be too re- 
mote for me. This feeling, Sir, so natural, as I think, to true 
patriotism, is the dictate also of enlightened self-interest Were 
I to look only to the benefits of my own immediate constituents, 
I should still support this measure. 1b not our commerce floating 
on these Western rivers ? Are not our manufactures ascending 
them all, by day and night, by the power of steam, which is in- 
cessantly impelling a thousand engines, and forcing upwards, 
against their currents, hundreds of thousands of tons of fireight ? 
If these cargoes be lost, if they be injured, if their progress be 
delayed, if the expense of their traJisportation be increasedi who 


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does not see that all interested in them become sufferers ? Who 
does not see that every producer, every manufacturer, every 
trader, every laborer, has an interest in these improvements? 
Surely, Sir, this is one of the cases in which the interest of the 
whole is the interest of each. Every man has his dividend out 
of this augmented public advantage. But if it were not so, if 
the effect were more local, if the work were useful to the West- 
ern States alone, or useful mainly to Kentucky and Indiana 
alone, still I should think it a case fairly within our power, and 
important enough to demand our attention. 

But, Mr. President, I felt the more pain at the result of the 
last vote of the Senate on account of those Western gentlemen 
wiio are so much interested in this measure, and who have uni- 
formly supported appropriations for other parts of the country, 
which, though just and proper, are, as it seems to me, no more 
just and proper than this. 

These friends have stood by us. They have uniformly been 
foTind at our side, in the contest about internal improvement. 
They have upheld that policy, and have gone with us through 
good report and evil report. And I now tell them that I shall 
stand by them. I shall be found where they look for me. I 
have asked their votes, once and again, for objects important to 
the Atlantic States. They have liberally given those votes. 
They have acted like enlightened and wise statesmen. I have 
duly estimated the high justice and liberality of their conduct. 
And having now an object interesting to them and to their con- 
stituents, a just object and a great object, they have a right to 
find me at their side, acting with them, acting according to my 
orwn principles, and proving my own consistency. And so 
they shall find me ; and so they do find me. On this occasion 
I am with them ; I am one of them. I am as Western a man, 
on this bill, as he among them who is most Western. This 
chair must change its occupant, another voice will address the 
Senate from this seat, before an object of this nature, so impor- 
tant, so constitutional, so expedient, so highly desirable to a 
great portion of the country, and so useful to the whole, shall 
fail here, for the want, either of a decisive vote in its support, or 
of an earnest recommendation of it to the support of others. 


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Mr. President, — I have no desire to make myself respon- 
sible, in any special manner, for what may be done or omit- 
ted, on this subject. It is surrounded with difficulties, some 
of them, as I think, unnecessarily created ; and as these have 
been produced by measures in which I did not concur, it nat- 
urally belongs to others, who did concur in those measures, and 
who now possess the power, to apply the remedy according to 
their judgments, and on their own responsibility. But I in- 
cline, nevertheless, to express my opimons on a subject of such 
very high interest, and to let them have what weight they are 
entitled to, if it may be supposed that they are entitled to any 
weight at all. 

On one point, I presume, we are all agreed, and that is, 
that the subject is of great importance. It affects the finances 
of the country, the security of the public money, and the state 
of the currency; and it affects also the practical and actual 
distribution of power among the several branches of the gov- 

The bill comprises provisions for two objects : — 
. First, regulations for the custody of the public money, be- 
tween the time of its collection and ilie time of its disburse- 
ment; and, as naturally connected with this, it concerns, or 
must very materially affect, the currency of the country, the 
exchanges, and the usual operations of credit in the commercial 

* A Speech deliyered in the Senate of the United States, on introducin? the 
Proposition for the Distribution of the Surplus Revenue, on the 31st of Alay, 


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The second direct object of the bill is a redaction, positive 
of contingent, of the amount of money in the treasury. 

It seems probable, Sir, thiat the bill, so far as it respects 
the first of these objects, may be so modified as to receive the 
approbation of a majority of the Senate. A committee acting 
in a spirit of conciliation, and with an honest desire to avoid 
the points of former difference, might, I think, agree on the 
regulations to be prescribed to the deposit banks. The senti- 
ments which have been advanced in the course of the discus- 
sion do not appear to be irreconcilable. :jthe present state 
of things, I see no way but to employ State banks as depos- 
itaries of the public money; and I have a sincere desire to 
subject them to such regulations, and such only, as shall make 
them, in the highest practicable degree, safe to the government 
and useful to the country. 

To this end, I am of opinion that the first step is to increase 
their numbers. At present, their number, especially in the large 
cities, is too small. They have too large sums in deposit, in 
proportion to their capital and their legal limits of discount 
By this means the public money is locked up. It is hoarded. 
It is withdrawn, to a considerable extent, from the general 
mass of commercial means, and is suffered to accumulate, with 
no possible benefit to government, and with great inconvenience 
and injury to the general business of the country. On this 
point there seems little diversity of opinion. All appear to agree 
that the number of deposit banks should be so far increased, 
that each may regard that portion of the public treasure which 
it may receive as an increase of its effective deposits, to be used, 
like other moneys in deposit, as a basis of discount, to a just 
and proper extent 

I regard this modification of the present system as indispen- 

I think, too, that, for the use of these deposits, the banks 
should pay a moderate interest They can well afford it The 
best banks in the States will be ready, I do not doubt, to receive 
the deposits, on that condition among others. What the rate 
of interest should be depends very much on what we may do 
with the surplus revenue. If we leave that surplus undistrib- 
uted, the banks ought to pay a large interest If we provide for 
distributing the surplus, thus leaving but a small amount in 

▼OL. IV. 22 


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th^ banks, and making it their duty, at the same time, to traps* 
fer the public funds from place to place when requested, without 
charge, the rate of interest should of course be less. 

I agree, fJso, to what has been suggested respecting the au- 
thority to change those banks. They ought not to be changed, 
but for plain a^d ^pepi^fic c^use, se^ dQw^ ^iid provided for in the 
lavr itself, ^ny restriction less than thi^ wiU place a discretion 
in the hands of* ^he executive, which will be very cs^ble of be- 
ing abused. 

Nor should the Secretary be at liberty to order funds from one 
bank to another, for any other reasoj|;i than the exigencies of the 
public service. He should not be at liberty tQ use the public 
treasures for the purpose of upholding the predit^ or increasing 
the means, of any State institution. 

The bill proposes that aU the deposit b^^ks sfeall be bound ip 
keep, at all times, an amount of specie in their vaults bearing a 
certain proportion to their debts ai|id liabilities. I approve of 
tl^s, not so much from any belief tl;^t, the solidity of the banks 
can be secured by any such provisions,^ as because a regulation 
of this kind may tend, in some measure, tpt retain a pertain quan- 
tity of specie in the country, and by that means to secure, in 
some small degree, the general circulation s^gainst violent shocks. 
But I do not 9,ttach great importance to this. 

In my opinion, Mr. President, if the bill p?^a ^th these mod- 
ifications, a considerable benefit will be conferred qn the com- 
munity. Confidence wiU be, in sopie measure at least,^ restored,; 
the banks will possess the power of useful ^pt^on, and, the dis- 
tressing uncertainty Yfbich now hangs over every thing being 
dispelled, the commercial cpmmi^iity y^ fiQd its^ way out of it^ 
present embarrassment. 

Still, Sir^ I ^m bound to say that the p(rese^t system, \n my 
opinion, can never be perfect It can never be the best system. 
It can never be a safe regulator of the currency of the country, 
nor furnish solid security against derangement It can never 
give to the mercantile world the cheapest, safest, and best oieans 
of facilitating domestic exchanges. The State banks were not 
made for these general purposes; they are not fitted for them; 
they have not the unity and compijehensiveness of plan and of 
operation which the suqcpssful accomplishment of such purposes 
re;^uires^ Thej a,re fiubject to va^ioi^, liipit^tions t>y ^eii^ ^IM^ 


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lere, and it may even be doubtful, in sdme cases, whether they 
can legally bind themselves in such stipulations and contracts as 
we propose to submit to them. They were established for local, 
not for gener^ objects. They did not expect to receive gov- 
ernment deposits ; and it might possibly be thought important 
to their stockholders and customers to be informed whether, in 
case of failure or insolvency, the priori^ of the United States 
-would prevail, as in other cases, to the postponement of all other 
debts and claims. It is certainly my opinion. Sir, that we are 
running great hazards with the currency of the country. I see 
no well-assured reliance for its safety in this system of deposit 
banks, regulated as well as they may be. Nevertheless, regula- 
tion is necessary, nay, it is indispensable ; and some present ben- 
efit at least would arise, I am persuaded, from the passage of a 
proper law. 

I come now. Sir, to tile otiier important object of this bill, the 
reduction of the amount of money in the treasury. 

And here the first question is, whether there will be any sur- 
plus revenue. Will there be any thing to divide at the end of 
this year ? On this point opinions are not agreed ; but I think 
there will be a surplus, and a large surplus. I do not see any 
probability, either of such a falling oif of income, on the one 
hand, or of such an ihcrease of expenditure on the other, as shall 
leave the treasury exhausted at the end of this year. I speak 
of this year only, because the measure which I shall propose will 
be limited to the end of this year. My plan is to provide for 
the surplus which may be on hand at the end of this year, and to* 
stop there. As to the probable state of the treasury at that time, 
I agree that it is matter of opinion and estimate. But we know 
what surti is on hand no\v, we are drawing near the close of the 
session, When appropriations will cease, and the year itself is 
already half expired. It would seem, then, that we ought to be 
able to judge of the state of the treasury six months hence, 
without risk of great and wide mistake. I proceed on the fol- 
lowing general estimate and calculation : — 

Amount of money in the treasury, Jan. 1^ 1836^ $ 25,000,000 
Deduct unexpended balances of appropriations, 8,000,000 

$ 17,000,000 

Digitized by CjOOQIC 


Amount forward, $17,000,000 

Revenue of the first quarter of 1836, . . . 11,000,000 
Estimate for the last three quarters of 1836, . 25,000,000 

Stock in late Bank of the United States, including 

premium, 8,000,000 


Appropriations in 1836, estimated at $ 35,000,000 

Deduct what will remain as unex- 
pended balance at the end of the 

year, 14,000,000 



This estimate. Sir, does not rest solely on my own judgment 
I find others, acquainted with the subject, and competent to 
judge, coming to conclusions not far difierent firom my own. It 
is true, this rests in opinion. It cannot be mathematically proved 
that we shall have a surplus in the treasury at the end of the 
year ; but the practical question is, whether that result is not so 
highly probable that it is our duty to make some provision for 
it, and to msike that provision now. I propose only to divide 
the surplus. If it shall happen, after all, that there shall be no 
surplus, then the measure will have done no harm. But if the 
surplus shall not be forty millions, but only thirty-five, thirty, 
twenty-five, or even twenty, still, if it be now probable that it 
will reach even the lowest of these sums, is it not our duty to 
• provide for it? 

This is a contingent measure, not a positive one. It is in- 
tended to apply to a case very likely, in my judgment, to arise ; 
indeed, I may say, a case which in aU probability will arise ; 
but if it should not, then the proposed measure will have no 

I have already observed, that, in. my opinion, the measure 
should be limited to one single division, one distribution of the 
surplus money in the treasury. In that respect, my proposition 
diifers fi-om the bill of the honorable member firom Carolina, and 
it differs, too, from the amendment proposed by the member 
fi-om New York. I think it safest to treat the present state of 
things as extraordinary, as being the result of accidental causes, 


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of causes the recurrence of which hereafter we cannot calcu- 
late upon with certainty. 

There would be insuperable objections, in my opinion, to a 
settled practice of distributing revenue among the States. It 
would be a strange operation of things, and its effects on our 
system of government might well be feared. I cannot reconcile 
myself to the spectacle of the States receiving their revenues, 
their means even of supporting their own governments, from 
the treasury of the United States. If, indeed, the land bill 
could pass, and we could act on the policy, which I think the 
true policy, of regarding the public lands as a fund belonging 
to the people of all the States, I should cheerfully concur in that 
policy, and be willing to make an annual distribution of the 
proceeds of the lands, for some years at least fiut if we can- 
not separate the proceeds of the lands from other revenue, if all 
must go into the treasury together, and there remain together, 
then I have no hesitation in declaring now, that the income 
from customs must be reduced. It must be reduced, even at the 
hazard of injury to some branches of manufacturing industry ; 
because this, in my opinion, would be a less evil than that extra- 
ordinary and dangerous state of things, in which the United 
States should be found laying and collecting taxes, for the pur- 
pose of distributing them, when collected, among the States of^ 
the Union. 

I do not think it difficult to account for the present overflow- 
ing condition of the treasury. The treasury enjoys two sources 
of income, the custom-house and the public lands. The income 
from the customs has been large, because the commerce of the 
country has been greatly extended, and its prosperity has been re- 
markable. The exports of the country have continued to increase. 
While the cotton crop has grown larger and larger from year 
to year, the price of cotton has still kept up. Notwithstand- 
ing aU the apprehensions entertained by prudent and sagacious 
men to the contrary, the world has not become overstocked with 
this article. The increase of consumption seems to keep pace 
with the increase of' supply. The consequence is, a vast and 
increasing export by us, and an import corresponding with this 
export, and with the amount of earnings in the carrying trade ; 
since the general role undoubtedly is, taking a number of years 
together, that the amoulit of imports and the earnings of freights 


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are abont equal to the amount of exports. The cotton-fields of 
the South most unquestionably form a great part of the basis 
of our commerce, and the earnings of our navigation another. 

The honorable member from South Carolina has referred to 
the tariff act of 1828 as the true cause of the swollen state of 
the treasury. I agree that there were many things unnecessarily 
inserted in the act of 1828. But we know they were not put 
there by the friends of the act That act is a remarkable in- 
stance, I hope never to be repeated, of unnatural, violent, angry 
legislation. Those who introduced it designed, originally, noth- 
ing more than to meet the new condition of things which had 
been brought about by the altered policy of Great Britain in 
relation to taxes on wool. A bill with the same end in view 
had passed the House of Representatives in 1827, but was 
lost in the Senate. The act of 1828, however, objectionable 
though it certainly was in many respects, has not been, in my 
opinion, the chief cause of the over-product of the customs. I 
think the act of 1832, confirmed by the act of 1833, commonly 
called the Compromise Act, has had much more to do in pro- 
ducing that result Up to the time of the passing of the act of 
1832, the minimum principle had been preserved in laying duties 
on certain manufactures, especially woollen cloths. This iU- 
understood and much-reviled principle appears to me, neverthe- 
less, and always has appeared to me, to be a just, proper, effect^ 
ual, and strictly philosophical mode of laying protective duties. 
It is exactly conformable, as I think, to the soundest and most 
accurate principles of political economy. It is, in the most rigid 
sense, what all such enactments, so far as practicable, should 
be ; that is to say, a mode of laying specific duty. It lays the 
impost exactly where it will do good, and leaves the rest free. 
It is an intelligent, discerning, discriminating principle ; not a 
blind, headlong, generalizing, uncalculating operation. Simplici- 
ty, undoubtedly, is a great beauty in acts of legislation, as well 
as in the works of art ; but in both it must be a simplicity result- 
ing from congruity of parts and adaptation to the end designed; 
not a rude generalization, which either leaves the particular 
object unaccomplished, or, in accomplishing it, accomplishes a 
dozen others also, which were not desired. It is a simplicity 
which is wrought out by knowledge and skill ; not the rough 
product of an undistinguishing, sweeping general principle. 


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Let us suppose that the gradations in woollen cloths be repre- 
sented by a line. At one end of this line are those of the high- 
est price, and let the scale descend to the other end, where, of 
course, will be those of the lowest price. Now with the two 
ends of this line our manufacturers have not much to do; that is 
to say, they have not much to do with the production of the very 
highest, or the very lowest, of these articles. Generally speak- 
ing, they work in the intermediate space. It was along this 
space, along this part of the line of work, that the minimum prin- 
ciple, as it has been usually called, operated. It struck just where 
the great object of protection required it to strike, and it struck 
nowhere else. All the rest it left free. It wasted no power. It 
accomplished its object by the least possible expenditure of 
means. Its aim was levelled at a distinct and well-discerned 
object, and its aim was exact, and the object was reached. 

But the minimum had become the subject of obloquy and re- 
proach. It was railed at, even, in good set terms, by some who 
professed to be, and who doubtless were, friends of the protect- 
ive policy. It was declared to be a deception. It was said that 
it cheated the people, inasmuch as under its operation they did^ 
not see what amount of taxes they really paid. For one, I did 
not admit the fact, nor yield to the argument. I had no doubt 
the people knew what taxes they paid under the operation of 
the laws, as well as we who passed the laws ; and whether they 
stopped to make precise calculations or not, if they found the 
tax not oppressive, and the effect of the law decidedly salutary, 
I did not believe they would complain of it, unless it was made 
a part of some other controversy. The minimum principle, how- 
ever, in its application to broadcloths, was overthrown by the 
law of 1832, and that law, as it came from the House of Repre- 
sentatives, and as it finally passed, substituted a general and 
universal ad valorem duty of fifty per cent. An effort was made 
in the Senate to resist this general ad valorem system, and to 
hold on to the specific duty. But it did not prevail. The Sen- 
ate was about equally divided. The casting or turning vote was 
held by a gentleman for whom I have always entertained a very 
high regard, a member from Maryland, not now in the Senate. 
After the discussion, he admitted himself almost satisfied that 
the law, in this particular, ought not to be altered ; but his im- 
pression against the minimum^ nevertheless, finally prevailed, and 


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he voted for the new mode, that 18 to say, the general ad valo^ 
rem mode of laying the duty ; and to render this effectual, he 
himself proposed to carry that duty as high as sixty per cent. 
The Senate fixed it, indeed, at fifty-seven per cent; but the 
House non-concurred, and the law finally passed, as all know, 
establishing an ad valorem duty of fifty per cent on woollen 
cloths, and some other articles. 

Now, Mr. President, when we recollect that the duties on 
woollen fabrics, of all kinds, bring into the treasury four, or five, 
or six millions a year, every man acquainted with our manufac- 
tures must see at once that a portion of this vast sum is per- 
fectly useless as a protective duty; because it is imposed on 
fabrics with which our own manufacturers maintain no compe- 
tition, and in regard to which, therefore, they ask no protection. 
I have instituted sundry inquiries for the purpose of learning, 
and of showing, what is the amount of duties collected annually 
on woollens, which have no distinct bearing, as protective du- 
ties, on any of the products of our manufactures. At present 1 
will only say, but will say that with great confidence, that, of 
the surplus money now in the treasury, several millions are 
the proceeds of ad valorem duties which have conferred no 
perceptible benefit whatever on our manufacturing establish- 
ments. It is therefore. Sir, that I regard the law of 1832, 
and not the law of 1828, as the great error in our legislation. 
This law of 1832 was confirmed by the act of 1833, and is, 
of course, in actual operation at the present moment, except 
so far as it has been affected by the gradual reduction pro- 
vided for by the last-mentioned act I wish not to discuss the 
act of 1833. I do not propose, af present, to disturb its opera- 
tion ; but having alluded to it, I take the occasion of saying, 
that I have not the least idea that that act can remain as the 
settled system of this country. When the honorable member 
from Kentucky* introduced it, he called it a measure of concili- 
ation, and expressed the hope that, if the manufacturing interests 
should be found to suffer under it, it might be modified by gen- 
eral consent Although never concurring in the act, I entertain 
the same hope. I pray most fervently that former strifes and 
controversies on the tariff question may never be revived ; but 

♦Mr. Clay. 


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at the same time it is my opinion that the principles established 
by the law of 1833 can never form the commerciaJ system of this 

But, Mr. President, the most striking increase in the public 
revenue is in that branch of it which is derived from the sales 
of the public lands. How happens it that the proceeds from this 
quarter have sprung up, thus suddenly, to such a height? The 
Secretary's estimate of the proceeds of the sales of the public 
lands for this year was only four millions. The actual sales are 
likely to be twenty. What has occasioned this great and unex- 
pected augmentation ? 

Sir, we are to remember that the growth and prosperity of the 
country generally are remarkable, and that, as these increase, the 
tide both of people and property which flows westward increases 
also. The reflow of this property is into the treasury through 
the land offices. 

The well-sustained demand for cotton has, of course, aug- 
mented the demand for cotton lands ; and we all know that good 
lands for the production of that crop are sought for with great 
eagerness. We are to include, too, among the causes tending 
to produce heavy purchases, the great expansion of the paper 
drculation, and tiie amount of foreign capital that has found its 
way, through one channel or another, into the country, and is 
giving an additional stimulus and additional facility to enter- 
prises, both public and private. Many of the States have con- 
tracted large debts, for purposes of improvement, and their 
stocks have gone abroad. I suppose there may be fifty millions 
of State securities now owned in Europe. Foreign capital, also, 
has been introduced to a great extent of late, as the basis of 
commercial enterprise, a thing ordinarily to be expected, when 
we look to the low rates of interest abroad, and the great de- 
mand for money at home. It would be hazardous to estimate 
proportions and amounts on such a subject; but it is certain 
that a large amount of property now afloat, in ships and goods, 
owned by Americans, and sailing and transported on American 
account, is put into commercial operation by means of foreign 
capital actually advanced, or acting though the agency of credit. 
This introduction of foreign capital, in all its various forms, has 
doubtless had some effect in extending our paper circulation, and 
in raising prices ; and certainly it has had a direct effect upon 
the ability to make investments in the public lands. 


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And, Sit, closely connected with these causes is another, wtii6& 
1 should consider, aftef all, the tnain caude ; that is, the low price 
of land, compared with other descriptions of property. In eveiy 
thing else prices have run up ; but here pricfe is chained down 
by the statute. Goods, products of all kittds^ and indeed fell 
other lands, may rise, and many of them have risen, some twen- 
ty-five, and some forty or fifty per cent. ) but government lands 
remain at a dollar and twenty-five cents an acte ; and vast por- 
tions of this land are equal, in natural fertility, to any part of the 
globe. There is nothing, on either continent, to surpass their 
quality. The government land, therefore, at the present prices, 
and at the present moment, is the cheapest ^afe 6bject of invest- 
ment The sagacity of capital has found this out, and it grasps 
the opportunity. Purchase, it is true, ha^ goflfe ahead of emU 
gration ; but emigration follows it, in n^ar pursuit, and spreads 
its thousands and its tens of thousands close on the heels of the 
surveyor and the land-hunter. When 1 traversed a part of the 
Western States, three years ago, I could not but ask myself, in 
the midst of the vast forests around me. Where are the people 
to come from who are to begin cultivation here, and to checker 
this wilderness with fields of wheat? But when, returning on 
the Cumberland Road, or while passing along other great chan- 
nels of communication, I encountered the masses of population 
moving westward, I was tempted to ask myself, on the other 
hand, a far different question, and that was. Where in the world 
wiU all these people find room to settle ? 

Nor are we to overlook, in this survey of the causes of the 
vast increase in the sale of lands, the effects, almost magical, of 
that great and beneficent agent of prosperity, wealth, and power, 
INTERNAL IMPROVEMENT. This has brought the West to the 
Atlantic, and carried the Atlantic to the West Ohio, Indiana, 
Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin are no longer places remote 
firom us. Railroads and canals have brought the settlers of 
these regions so near to us, that we almost sfefe the smoke of 
their cabins and hear the stroke of their axes. From Maine 
to the Upper Mississippi is already A beaten track, with one's 
acquaintances everywhere along the road, and that road even 
not a long one, if we measure it by the time required to pasB 
over it 

Mr. President, if I am asked how long these causes, or any of 


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them, will contiaue to act with this effective energy, I readily 
answer that I cannot foresee. Nor can I foresee other events, 
which may affect our revenue in years to come. And it is for 
this reason precisely, that what I propose is limited to a single 
year. All the uncertainties and contingencies which naturally 
belong to human affairs hang over us. I know not what ex- 
penditures may be called for next year. I know not what 
may be necessary to satisfy the all-absorbing demand of Indian 
wars and Indian treaties. I know not what events, at home 
or abroad, may shake our commercial security. I know not 
what frosts and blights may do against the cotton crops. I 
know not what may happen to our currency. I cannot tell 
what calls for the use of capital in other objects may affect 
the purchase of public lands ; for I am persuaded that, hereaf- 
ter, our income from that source is likely to be much more fluc- 
txiating than heretofore, as depending less on the actual amount 
of emigration, and more on the occasional plenty or scarcity of 
money. Emigmtion must hereafter supply its wants, much 
more than formerly, out of lands already separated from the pub- 
lic domain. 

Under these circumstances, it appears to me to be prudent to 
limit the proposed division to a single operation. Let us relieve 
the treasury for once ; and then let us pause and contemplate 
our condition. As to what may then be expedient, events will 
enlighten us. We shall be able to judge more wisely by the 
result of our experiments, and the future wiU be more visible as 
it approaches nearer. 

It will be observed. Sir, that I give full time to the deposit 
banks to prepare themselves to pay over these funds. Time for 
this purpose is indispensable. We might do harm rather than 
good, if we were to require any sudden operation of that kind. 
Give the banks time ; let them know what they have to do ; let 
the community see into what channels the surplus funds are to 
flow, and when they are to begin to flow ; and men of business 
will then be able to see what is before them. 

I have the fullest confidence that, if we now adopt this meas- 
ure, it will immediately relieve the country. It will remove that 
severe and almost unparalleled pressQre for money which is now 
distressing and breaking down the industry, the enterprise, and 
even the courage, of the commercial community. I assure you, 


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Sir, this present pressure is not known, or felt, or believed here, 
in any thing like its true extent. K we give no relief, I know 
not what may happen, even in this day of high prosperity. I 
beseech those who have the power not to let the opportunity 
pass, but to improve it, and thereby to revive the hopes and re- 
assure the confidence of the country. Having expressed these 
sentiments, and brought forward this specific proposition for one 
division among the States of the surplus funds, I should now 
move to commit the whole subject, either to a select committee 
or the Committee on Finance, were it not that, looking to the 
present composition of the Senate, I am not desirous of taking 
a lead in this measure. The responsibility naturally rests with 
those who have the power of majorities, and who may expect 
the concurrence of other branches. Meantime, I cheerfully give 
myself to any labor which the occasion requires, and I express 
my own deep and earnest conviction of the propriety and expe- 
diency of the measures which I have endeavored to explain and 
to support. 

Mr. W. then proposed the following by way of amendment to the 
" Bill to regulate the Deposits of the Public Money," as an additional 
section : — 

Sec. — . And he it further enacted^ That the money which shall be 
in the treasury of the United States on the first day of January, eighteen 

hundred and thirty seven, reserving millions, shall be divided 

among the several States, in proportion to their respective amounts of 
population, as ascertained by the last census, and according to the pro- 
vision of the second section of the first article of the Constitution ; and 
the Secretary of the Treasury shall pay the same to such persons as the 
several States may authorize to receive it, in the following proportions, 
and at the following times ; viz. one half on the first day of April, eigh- 
teen hundred and thirty-seven ; one quarter part on the first day of 
July, eighteen hundred and thirty-seven ; and the remaining quarter on 
the first day of October, eighteen hundred and thirty -seven ; and all 
States which shall receive their several proportions, according to the pro- 
visions of this act, shall be taken and understood thereby to pledge the 
public faith of such States to repay the same, or any part thereof, to the 
United Slates, whenever Congress shall require the same to be repaid, 
by any act or acts which shall require such payment ratably, and in 
equal proportion, from all the States which have received the same. 


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Thb Senate haying again proceeded to the order of the day, which 
was the consideration of the following resolutions, heretofore moved by 
Mr. Ewing, of Ohio : — 

" Resolved hy the Senate and House of Representatives^ 4*c., That 
the treasury order of the 11th day of July, A. D. 1836, designating the 
funds which should be receivable in payment for public lands, be, and 
the same is hereby, rescinded ; 

" Resolved^ also^ That it shall not be lawful for the Secretary of the 
Treasury to delegate to any person, or to any corporation, the power of 
directing what funds shall be receivable for customs, or for the public 
lands ; nor shall he make any discrimination in the funds so receivable, 
between different individuals, or between the difierent branches of the 
public revenue " ; 

Mr. Webster addressed the Senate as follows : — 

Mr. President, — The power of disposing of this important 
subject is in the hands of gentlemen, both • here and elsewhere, 
who are not likely to be influenced by any opinions of mine. I 
have no motive, therefore, for addressing the Senate, but to dis- 
charge a public duty, and to fulfil the expectations of those who 
look to me for opposition, whether availing or unavailing, to 
whatever I believe to be illegal or injurious to the public inter- 
ests. In both these respects, the treasury order of the 11th of 
July appears to me objectionable. I think it unwarranted by 
law, and I think it also practically prejudicial. I think it has 
contributed not a little to the pecuniary difficulties under which 
the whole country has been, and still is^ laboring ; and that its 

* A Speech delivered in the Senate of the United Stales, on the Slst of De- 
eember, 1836, on the subject of the Specie Circular. 

VOL. IV. 23 


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direct effect on one particular part of the country is still more 
decidedly and severely unfavorable. 

The treasury order, or treasury circular, of the 11th of July 
last, is addressed by the Secretary to the receivers of public 
money, and to the deposit banks. It instructs these receivers 
and these banks, " after the 15th day of August then next, to re- 
ceive in payment for the public lands nothing except what is 
durected by existing laws, viz. gold and silver, and, in the proper 
cases, Virginia land scrip; provided, that till the 15th of Decem- 
ber then next, the same indulgence heretofore extended, as to 
the kind of money received, may be continued for any quantity 
of land not exceeding three hundred and twenty acres, to each 
purchaser who is an actual settler or bond fide resident in the 
State where the sales are made." 

The exception in favor of Virginia scrip is founded on a par- 
ticular act of Congress, and makes no part of the general ques- 
tion. It is not necessary, therefore, to refer further to that ex- 
ception. The substance of the general instruction is, that noth- 
ing but gold and silver shall be received in payment for public 
lands ; provided, however, that actual settlers and bona fide resi- 
dents in the States where the sales are made may purchase in 
quantities not exceeding three hundred and twenty acres each, 
and be allowed to pay as heretofore. But this provision was 
limited to the 15th day of December, which has now passed ; so 
that, by virtue of this order, gold and silver are now required of 
all purchasers, and for all quantities. 

I am very glad that a resolution to rescind this order has been 
thus early introduced ; and I am glad, too, since the resolution 
is to be opposed, that opposition comes early, in a bold, une- 
quivocal, and decided form. The order, it seems, is to be de- 
fended as being both legal and useful. Let its defence then be 

The honorable member from Missouri * objects even to giving 
the resolution to rescind a second reading. He avails himself 
of his right, though it be contrary to general practice, to arrest 
the progress of the measure at its first stage. This, at least, is 
open, bold, and manly warfare. 

The honorable member, in his elaborate speech, founds his 

• Mr. Benton. 


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opposition to this resolution, and his support of the treasury 
order, on those general principles respecting currency which he 
is known to entertain, and which he has maintained for many 
years. His opinions some of us regard as altogether ultra and 
impracticable ; as looking to a state of things not desirable in it- 
self, even if it were practicable, and if it were desirable, as being 
far beyond the power of this government to bring about 

The honorable member has manifested much perseverance, 
and abundant labor, most undoubtedly, in support of his opin- 
ions ; he is understood, abo, to have had countenance from high 
places ; and what new hope of success the present moment holds 
out to him, I am not able to judge, but we shall probably soon 
see. It is precisely on these general and long-known opinions 
that he rests his support of the treasury order. A question, 
therefore, is at once raised between the gentleman's principles 
and opinions on the subject of the currency, and the principles 
and opinions which have generally prevailed in the country, and 
which are, and have been, entirely opposite to his. That ques- 
tion is now about to be put to the vote of the Senate. In the 
progress and by the termination of this discussion, we shall 
learn whether the gentleman's sentiments are or are not to pre- 
vail, so far at least as the Senate is concerned. The country 
will rejoice, I am sure, to see some declaration of the opinions 
of Congress on a subject about which so much has been said, 
and which is so well calculated, by its perpetual agitation, to 
disquiet and disturb the confidence of society. 

We are now fast approaching the day when one administra- 
tion is to go out of office, and another to come in. The country 
has an interest in learning as soon as possible whether the new 
administration, while it receives the power and patronage, is to 
inherit, also, the views and the projects, of the past ; whether 
it is to keep up the avowal of the same objects and the same 
schemes, especially in regard to the currency. The order of the 
Secretary is prospective, and, on the face of it, perpetual. Noth- 
ing in or about it gives it the least appearance of a temporary 
measure. On the contrary, its terms imply no limitation in point 
of duration, and the gradual manner in which it is to come into 
operation shows plainly an intention of making it the settled 
and permanent policy of government Indeed, it is but now 
beginning its complete existence. It is only five or six days 


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since its full operation has commenced. Is it to stand as the 
law of the land and the rule of the treasury, under the new 
administration ? And are those notions .of an exclusive specie 
currency, and opposition to all banks, on which it is defended, 
to be espoused and maintained by the new administration, 
as they have been by its predecessor? These are questions, 
not of mere curiosity, but of the highest interest to the whole 

In considering this order, the first thing naturally is to look for 
the causes which led to it, or are assigned for its promulgation. 
And these, on the face of the order itself, are declared to be 
" complaints which have been made of frauds, speculations, and 
monopolies in the purchase of the public lands, and the aid 
which is said to be given to effect these objects by excessive 
bank oredits, and dangerous, if not partial, facilities through 
bank drafts and bank deposits, and the general evil influence 
likely to result to the pubUc interest, and especially the safety of 
the great amount of money in the treasury, and the sound con- 
dition of the currency of the country, from the further exchange 
of the national domain in this manner, and chiefly for bank 
credits and paper money." 

This is the catalogue of evils to be cured by this order. In 
what these frauds consist, what are the monopolies complained 
of, or what is precisely intended by these injurious speculations, 
we are not informed. All is left on the general surmise of fraud, 
speculation, and monopoly. It is not avowed, or intimated, that 
the government has sustained any loss, either by the receipt of 
bank-notes which proved not to be equivalent to specie, or in 
any other way. And it is not a little remarkable, that these 
evils of fraud, speculation, and monopoly should have become 
so enormous, and so notorious, on the 11th of July, as to require 
this executive interference for their suppression, and yet that 
they should not have reached such a height as to make it 
proper to lay the subject before Congress, although Congress 
remained in session until within seven days of the date of the 
order. What makes this circumstance still more remarkable is 
the fact, that, in his annual message at the commencement of 
the same session, the President had spoken of the rapid sales 
of the public lands as one of the roost gratifying proofs of the 
general prosperity of the country, without suggesting that any 


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danger whatever was to be apprehended from fraud, speculation, 
or monopoly. His words were, " Among the evidences of the 
increasing prosperity df the country, not the least gratifying is 
that afforded by the receipts from the sales of the public lands, 
which amount, in the present year, to the unexpected sum of 
eleven millions of dollars." From the time of the delivery of 
that message down to the date of the treasury order, there had 
not been the least change, so far as I know, or so far as we are 
informed, in the manner of receiving payment for the public 
lands. Every thing stood on the 11th of July, 1836, as it had 
stood at the opening of the session, in December, 1835. How 
so different a view of things happened to be taken at the two 
periods, we may be able to learn, perhaps, in the further prog- 
ress of this debate. 

The order speaks of the " evil influence '' likely to result from 
the further exchange of the public lands for "paper money .'' 
Now, this is the very language of the gentleman from Missouri. 
He habitually speaks of the notes of all banks, however solvent, 
and however promptly their notes may be redeemed in gold 
and silver, as ** paper money." The Secretary has adopted the 
honorable member's phrases, and he speaks, too, of all the 
bank-notes received at the land offices, although every one of 
them is redeemable in specie, on demand, but as so much " pa- 
per money." 

In this respect, also. Sir, I hope we may know more as we 
grow older, and be able to learn whether, in times to come, as 
in times recently passed, the justly obnoxious and odious char- 
acter of ** paper money " is to be applied to the issues of all the 
banks in all the States, with whatever punctuality they redeem 
their bills. This is quite new, as financial language. By paper 
money in its obnoxious sense, I understand paper, issued on 
credit alone, without capital, without funds assigned for its pay- 
ment, resting only on the good faith and the future ability of 
those who issue it Such was the paper money of our Revolu- 
tionary times ; and such, perhaps, may have been the true charac- 
ter of the paper of particular institutions since. But the notes of 
banks of competent capitals, limited in amount to a due propor- 
tion of such capitals, made payable on demand in gold and sil- 
ver, and always so paid on demand, are paper money in no 
sense but one ; that is to say, they are made of paper, and they 


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circulate as money. And it may be proper enough for those 
who maintain that nothing should so circulate but gold and 
silver, to denominate such bank-notes " paper money," since 
they regard them but as paper intruders into channels which 
should flow only with gold and silver. If this language of the 
order is authentic, and is to be maintained, and all bank-notes 
are to be regarded and stigmatized as mere " paper money," 
the sooner the country knows it the better. 

The member from Missouri charges those who wish to rescind 
the treasury order with two objects ; first, to degrade and dis- 
grace the President, and next, to overthrow the constitutional 
currency of the country. 

For my own part, Sir, I seek to degrade or disgrace nobody. 
Holding the order illegal and unwise, I shall certainly vote to 
rescind it ; and in the discharge of this duty I hope I am not 
expected to shrink back, lest I should do something which might 
call in question the wisdom of the Secretary, or even of the 
President And I hope that so much of independence as may 
be manifested by free discussion and an honest vote is not to 
cause denunciation from any quarter. If it should, let it come. 

As to an attempt to overthrow the constitutional currency of 
the country, if I were now to enter into such a design, I should 
be beginning at rather a late day to wage war against the efforts 
of my whole political life. From my very first concern with 
public affairs, I have looked at the public currency as a matter 
of the highest interest, and hope I have given suflScient proofs 
of a disposition at all times to maintain it sound and secure, 
against all attacks and all dangers. When I first entered the 
other house of Congress the currency was exceedingly deranged. 
Most of the banks had stopped payment, and the circulating 
medium had then become indeed paper money. So soon as a 
state of peace enabled us, I took part with others in an effort 
to restore the currency to a better state ; and success followed 
that effort 

But what is meant by the " constitutional currency," about 
which so much is said? What species or forms of currency 
does the Constitution allow, and what does it forbid? It is 
plain enough that this depends on what we understand by cur- 
rency. Currency, in a large, and perhaps in a just sense, in- 
cludes not only gold and silver and bank-notes, but bills of ex* 


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change also. It may include all that adjusts exchanges and set- 
tles balances in the operations of trade and business. But if we 
understand by currency the leg'al money of the country, and that 
which constitutes a lawful tender for debts, and is the statute 
measure of value^ then, undoubtedly, nothing is included but 
gold and silver. ^Most unquestionably there is no legal tender, ^ 
and there can be no legal tender, in this country, under the au- ( 
thority of this government or any other, but gold and silver, 
either the coinage of our own mints, or foreign coins, at rates reg- 
ulated by Congress. This is a constitutional principle, perfectly f^ 
plain, and of the very highest importance. The States are ex- 1 (y^p^J^^ 
pressly prohibited from making any thing but gold and silver 
a tender in payment of debts ; and although no such express ; 
prohibition is applied to Congress, yet, as Congress has no I 
power granted to it, in this respect, but to coin money and to ) ■ 
regulate the value of foreign coins, it clearly has no power to 1 " 
substitute paper, or any thing else, for coin, as a tender in pay-j" 
ment of debts and in discharge of contracts. Congress has ex- 
ercised this power, fully, in both its branches. It has coined - 
money, and still coins it ; it has regulated the value of foreign { 
coins, and still regulates their value. The legal tender, therefore, \ 
the constitutional standard of value, is established, and cannot I 
be overthrown. To overthrow it, would shake the whole system^ 

But if the Constitution knows only gold and silver as a legal 
tender, does it follow that the Constitution cannot tolerate the 
voluntary circulation of bank-notes, convertible into gold and 
silver at the will of the holder, as part of the actual money of 
the country ? Is a man not only to be entitled to demand gold 
and silver for every debt, but is he, or should he be, obliged to 
demand it in all cases ? Is it, or should government make it, 
unlawful to receive pay in any thing else ? Such a notion is too 
absurd to be seriously treated. '' The constitutional tender is the / 
thing \jo be preserved, and it ought to be preserved sacredly, ; 
under all circumstances^ The rest remains for judicious legisla- 
tion by those who have competent authority. 

I have already said, that Congress has never supposed itself 
authorized to make any thing but coin a tender, in the payment 
of debts, between individual and individual ; but it by no means 
follows from this that it may not authorize the receipt of any 
.hing but coin in payment of debts due to the United States. 


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These powers are distinct, and flow fixmi difliBrent sources. The 
power of coinage is a general power ; a portion of sovereignty 
taken from the States and conferred on Congress, for the sake 
both of uniformity and of greater security. It is to be exercised 
for the benefit of all the people, by establishing a legal tender 
and standard of value in aU transactions. 

But when Congress lays duties and taxes, or disposes of the 
public lands, it may direct payment to be made in whatever 
medium it pleases. The authority to lay taxes includes the 
power of deciding how they shall be paid ; and the power grant- 
ed by the Constitution to dispose of the territory belonging to 
the United States carries with it, of course, the power of fixing, 
not only the price and the conditions and time of payment, but 
also the medium of payment. Both in respect to duties and taxes, 
and payments for lands, it has been, accordingly, the constant 
practice of Congress, in its discretion, to provide for the receipt 
' of sundry things besides gold and silver. As early as 1797, the 
public stocks of the government were made receivable for lands 
sold ; the six per cents at par, and other descriptions of stock in 
proportion. This policy had, probably, a double purpose in 
view, the one to sustain the price of the public stocks, and the 
other to hasten the sale and settlement of the lands. Other 
statutes have given the like receivable character to Mississippi 
stock, and to Virginia land scrip. So treasury-notes were made 
receivable for duties and taxes ; and, indeed, if any such should 
now be found outstanding, I believe they constitute a lawful 
mode of payment, at the present moment, whether for duties and 
taxes, or for lands. 

But in regard both to taxes and payments for lands. Congress 
has not left the subject without complete legal regulation. It 
has exercised its full power. The statutes have declared what 
should be received from debtors and from purchasers, and have 
left no ground whatever for the interference of executive discre- 
tion or executive control So far as I know, there has been no 
period when this subject was not regulated by express legal pro- 
vision. When the duty act and the tonnage act were passed, at 
the first session of the first Congress, an act was passed also, at 
the same session, containing a section which prescribed the 
coins in which those duties were to be paid, and fixed their 
values. From that time to this, the medium for the payment of 


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fie debts and dues has been a matter of fixed legal right, 
and not at all a matter of executive discretion. The Secretary 
of the Treasury has had no more power over these laws than 
oyer other laws. He can no more change the legal mode of 
paying the duty, than he can change the amount of the duty to 
be paid. He can no more alter the legal means of paying for 
lands, than he can alter the price of the lands themselves. It 
would be strange, indeed, if this were not so. It would be 
ridiculous to say that we lived under a government of laws, 
if an executive officer may say in what currency or medium 
a man shall pay his taxes and debts to government, and may 
make one rule for one man, and another rule for another. We 
might as well admit that the Secretary had authority to remit 
or give in the debt of one, while he enforced payment from the 

I desire, Sir, even at the expense of some repetition, to fix the 
attention of the Senate to this proposition ; that Congress, hav- 
ing by the Constitution authority to dispose of the public terri- 
tory, has passed laws for the complete exercise of that power ; 
laws which not only have fixed the price of the public lands, 
the manner of sales, and the time of payment, but which have 
fixed also, with equal precision, the medium^ or kinds of money, 
or other things, which shall be received in payment It has 
neglected no part of this important trust ; it has delegated no 
part of it ; it has left no ground, not an inch, for executive inter- 

The only question, therefore, is, What is the law, or what was 
the law when the Secretary bsued his order ? 

The Secretary regards that which has been uniformly done 
for twenty years, that is to say, the receiving of payment for the 
public lands in the bills of specie-paying banks, as against law. 
He calls it an " indulgence " ; and this ** indulgence " the order 
proposes to continue for a limited time, and in favor of a partic- 
ular class of purchasers. If this were an indulgence, and against 
law, one might well ask. How has it happened that it should 
have continued so long, especially through late years, marked by 
such a spirit of thorough and searching reform ? It might be 
asked, too. If this be illegal, and an indulgence only, why con- 
tinue it longer, and especially why continue it as to some, and 
lefose to continue it as to others ? 


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But, Sir, it is time to turn to the statute, and to see what 
the legal provision is. On the 30th day of April, 1816, a res- 
olution passed both houses of Congress. It was in the com- 
mon form of a joint resolution, and was approved by the Presi- 
dent ; and no one doubts, I suppose, that, for the purpose in- 
tended by it, it was as authentic and valid as a law in any other 
form. It provides, that, " from and after the 20th day of Feb- 
ruary next [1817], no duties, taxes, debts, or sums of money, 
accruing or becoming payable to the United States, ought to 
be collected or received otherwise than in the legal currency 
of the United States, or treasury-notes, or notes of the Bank 
of the United States, or in notes of banks which are payable 
and paid on demand in the said legal currency of the United 

This joint resolution authoritatively fixed the rights of parties 
paying, and the duties of officers receiving. So far as respects 
the notes of the Bank of the United States, it was altered by a 
law of tlie last session ; but in all other particulars it is, as I sup- 
pose, in full force at the present moment ; and as it expressly 
authorizes the receipt of such bank-notes as are payable and paid 
on demand, I cannot understand how the receipt of such notes 
is a matter of " indulgence." We may as well say, that to be 
allowed to pay in treasury-notes, or in foreign coins, or, indeed, 
in our own gold and silver, is an indulgence, since the act places 
all on the same ground. 

The honorable member from Missouri has, indeed, himself 
furnished a complete answer to the Secretary's idea ; that is to 
say, he defends the order on grounds not only differing from, but 
totally inconsistent with, those assumed by the Secretary. He 
does not consider the receipt of bank-notes hitherto, or up to the 
time of issuing the order, as an indulgence, but as a lawful right 
while it lasted. How he proves this right to be now terminated, 
and terminated by force of the order, I shall consider presently. 
I only say now, that his argument entirely deprives the Secre- 
tary of the only ground assigned by him for the treasury order. 
The Secretary directs the receivers to " receive in payment for 
the public lands nothing except what is directed by the existing 
laws, viz. gold and silver, and, in the proper cases, Virginia 
land scrip." Gold and silver, then, and, in the proper cases, Vir- 
ginia land scrip, are, in the opinion of the Secretary, all that is 


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directed to be received by the existing laws. The receipt of 
bank-notes he considers, therefore, but an indulgence, a thing 
against law, to be tolerated a little longer, in some cases, and 
then to be finally suppressed. 

Apparently not at all satisfied with this view of the Secretary 
of the ground upon which his own order must stand, the mem- 
ber from Missouri not only abandons it altogether, but sets up 
another wholly inconsistent with it He admits the legality of 
payment in such bank-notes up to the date of the order itself, 
but insists that the Secretary of the Treasury had a right of se- 
lection, and a right of rejection also ; and that, although the va- 
rious modes of payment provided by the resolution of 1816 were 
all good and lawful, till the Secretary should make some of them 
otherwise, yet that, by virtue of his power of selection or rejec- 
tion, he might at any time strike one or more of them out of the 
list And this power of selection or rejection he thinks he finds 
in the resolution of 1816 itself. 

I incline to think. Sir, that the Secretary will be as little satis- 
fied with the footing on which his friend, the honorable member 
from Missouri, thus places his order, as that friend is with the 
Secretary's own ground. For my part, I think them both just 
half right; that is to say, both, in my humble judgment, are 
just so far right as they distrust and disclaim the reasoning of 
each other. Let me state. Sir, as I understand it, the honorable 
member's argument It is, that the law of 1816 gives the Sec- 
retary a selection ; that it provides four different modes, or m^- 
dia^ of payments ; that the Secretary is to collect the revenue in 
one, or several, or all of these modes or media, at his discretion ; 
that all are in the disjunctive, as I think he expressed it; and 
that the resolution, or law, is not mandatory or conclusive in fa- 
vor of any one. According to the honorable member, therefore, 
if the Secretary had chosen to say that our own eagles and our 
own dollars should no longer be receivable, whether for customs, 
taxes, or public lands, he had a clear right to say so, and to stop 
their reception. 

Before a construction of so extraordinary a character be fixed 
on the law of 1816, something like the appearance of argument, 
I think, might be expected in its favor. But what is there upon 
which to found such an implied power in the Secretary of the 
Treasury ? Is there a syllable in the whole law which counte- 


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nances any such idea for a single moment ? There clearly is 
not The law was intended to provide, and does provide, in 
what sorts of money, or other means of payment, those who owe 
debts to the government shall pay those debts. It enumerates 
fonr kinds of money, or other means of payment ; and can any 
thing be plainer than that he who has to pay may have his 
choice out of all four ? All being equally lawful, the choice is 
with the payer, and not with the receiver. This would seem to be 
too plain either to be ai^ed or denied. Other laws of the Unit- 
ed States have made both gold and silver coins a tender in the 
payment of private debts. Did any man ever imagine, that in 
that case the choice between the coins to be tendered was to 
lie with the party receiving ? No one could ever be guilty of 
such an absurdity. And unless there be something in the law 
of 1816 itself, which, either expressly or by reasonable inference, 
confers a similar power on the Secretary of the Treasury in re- 
gard to public payments, is there, in the nature of things, any 
difference between the cases ? Now, there is nothing, either in 
the law of 1816 or any other law, which confers any such power 
on the Secretary of the Treasury, either directly or indirectly, 
or which suggests, or intimates, any ground upon which such 
power might be implied. Indeed, the statement of the argu- 
ment seems to me enough to confute it It makes the law of 
1816 not a rule, but the dissolution of all rule ; not a law, but 
the abrogation of all existing laws. According to the argument, 
the Secretary of the Treasury had authority, not only to refuse 
the receipt of treasury-notes, which had been issued upon the 
faith of statutes expressly making them receivable for debts and 
duties, and notes of the Bank of the United States, which were 
also made receivable by the law creating the bank, but to refuse 
also foreign coins and the coinage of our own mint; putting 
thus the legislation of Congress for five-and-twenty years at the 
unrestrained and absolute discretion of the Secretary of the 
Treasury. It appears to me quite impossible that any gentle- 
man, on reflection, can undertake to support such a construc- 

But the gentleman relies on a supposed practice to maintain 
his interpretation of the law. What practice ? Has any Secre- 
tary ever refused to receive the notes of specie-paying banks, 
either at the custom-house or the land offices, for a single hour? 


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Never. Has any Secretary presumed to strike foreign coin, or 
treasury- notes, or our own coin, out of the list of receivables? 
Such an idea certainly never entered into the head of any Secre- 
tary. The gentleman argues that the treasury has made dis- 
criminations ; but what discriminations? I suppose the whole 
ti:uth to be simply this ; that, admitting at all times the right 
of the party paying to pay in notes of specie-paying banks, the 
collectors and receivers have not been held bound to receive 
notes of distant banks, of which they knew nothing, and there- 
fore could not judge whether their notes came within the law. 
Those collectors and receivers were bound to receive the bills of 
specie-paying banks ; but as that duty arose from the fact that 
the notes tendered were the notes of specie-paying banks, that 
fact, if not notorious or already known to them, must be made 
known, with reasonable certainty, before the duty to receive 
them became imperative. I suppose there may have been treas- 
ury orders regulating the conduct of collectors and receivers in 
this particular. Any orders which went further than this would 
go beyond the law. 

The honorable member quotes one of the by-laws of the late 
Bank of the United States ; but what has that to do with the 
subject? Does the honorable member think that the by-laws 
of the late bank were laws to the people of the United States ? 
The bank was under no obligation to receive any notes on 
deposit except its own. It might, therefore, make just such an 
arrangement with the treasury as it saw fit, if it saw fit to make 
any. But neither the treasury, nor the bank, nor both together, 
could do away with the letter of an act of Congress ; nor did 
either undertake so to do. 

But, Sir, what have been the gentleman's own opinions on 
this subject heretofore ? Has he always been of opinion that the 
Secretary enjoyed this power of selection, as he now calls it, 
under the law of 1816 ? Has he heretofore looked upon the 
various provisions of that law only as so many movable and 
shifting parts, to be thrown into gear and out of gear by the mere 
touch of the Secretary's hand? Certainly, Sir, he has not 
thought so ; certainly he has looked upon that law as fixed, defi- 
nite, and beyond executive power, as clearly as other laws ; as a 
statute, to be repealed or modified only by another statute. 
No longer ago than the 23d of last April, the honorable mem- 

voL. IV. 24 


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ber introduced a resolution into the Senate in the following 
words : — 

" Resolved, That, from and after the day of , in the 

year 1636, nothing but gold and silver coin ought to be received 
in payment for public lands ; -and that the Committee on Pub- 
lic Lands be instructed to report a bill accordingly." 

And now. Sir, I ask why the honorable member moved here 
for a bill and a law, if the whole matter was, in his opinion, 
within the power of the Secretary of the Treasury ? 

The Senate did not adopt this resolution. A day or two 
after its introduction, and when some little discussion had been 
had upon it, a motion to lay it on the table prevailed, hardly 
opposed, I think, except by the gentleman's own vote. A few 
weeks after this disposition had been made of his resolution, 
the session came to a close, and seven days after the dose of 
the session the treasury order made its appearance. 

But this is not all. There is higher authority than even that 
of the honorable member. Looking to the expiration of the 
charter of the Bank of the United States, the President, in his 
annual message in December last, said it was incumbent on 
Congress to discontinue, by law, the receipt of the bills of that 
bank in payment of the public revenue. Now, as the charter 
was to expire on the 3d day of March, there was nothing to 
make its bills receivable after that period except the law of 
1816. To strike the provision respecting notes of the bank out 
of that law, another law was indeed necessary, according to my 
understanding ; but I do not conceive how it should be thought 
necessary, upon the ^construction of the honorable member. Both 
houses being of opinion, however, that the thing could not be 
done without law, an act was passed for that purpose, and was 
approved by the President Here, then. Sir, is the gentieman's 
own authority, the authority of the President, and the author- 
ity of both houses of Congress, for saying that nothing contained 
in the law of 1816 can be thrust out of it by any other power 
than the power of a subsequent statute. I am, therefore, of opin- 
ion, that the treasury order of the 11th of July is against the 
plain words and meaning of the law of 1816; against the whole 
practice of the government under that law; against the hon- 
orable gentieman's own opinion, as expressed in his resolu- 
tion of the 23d of April ; and not reconcilable with the neces- 


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sitj which was supposed to exist for the passage of the act of 
last session. 

On this occasion I have heard of no attempt to justify the 
order on the ground of any other law, or act, but the act of 
1816. When the order was published, however, it was accom- 
panied with an exposition, apparently half official, which looked 
to the land laws as the Secretary's source of power, and which 
took no notice at all of the law of 1816. The land law referred 
to was the act of 1820 ; but it turns out, upon examination, 
that there is nothing at all in that law to support the order, or 
give it any countenance whatever. The only clause in it which 
could be supposed to have the slightest reference to the subject 
is the proviso in the fourth section. That section provides for 
the sale of such lands as, having been onc^ sold on credit, should 
revert or become forfeited to the United States through failure 
of payment ; and the proviso declares, that no such lands shall 
be again sold on any other terms than those of " cash payment" 
These words, "cash payment," have been seized upon, as if 
they had wrought an entire change in the important provisions 
. of the law of 1816, and already established an exclusive specie 
payment for lands. The idea is too futile for serious refutation. 
In the first place, the whole section applies only to forfeited 
lands ; but the truth is, the term " cash payment " means only 
payment down, in contradistinction to credit, which had for- 
merly been allowed ; just as the same words in the tariff act 
of July, 1832, mean payment down, instead of payment secured 
by bonds, when it says that the duties on certain articles shall 
be paid in " cash." As to the second section of the land law 
of 1820, which was set forth with great formality in the ex- 
position to which I have referred, as furnishing authority for the 
Secretary's order, there is not a word in it having any such ten- 
dency ; not a syllable which has any application to the matter. 
That section simply declares, that after the first day of July, in 
that year, every purchaser of land at public sale shall, on the day 
of purchase, make a complete payment therefor; and the pur- 
chaser at private sale shall produce a receipt for the amount of 
the purchase money on any tract, before he shall enter the same 
at the land office. This is all. It does not say how the pur- 
chaser shall make complete payment, nor in what currency the 
purchase money shall be received. It is quite evident, there- 
fore, that that section lends the order no support whatever. 


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The defence of the order, then, stands thus. The Secretary 
founds it upon the idea that nothing but gold and silver was 
ever lawfully receivable, and that the receipt of bank-bills has 
been all along an " indulgence " against law. For this opinion 
he gives no reasons. 

The honorable member from Missouri rejects this doctrine. 
He admits the receipt of bank-notes to have been lawful until 
made unlawful by the order itself; and insists that the Secreta- 
ry's po\\'er of stopping their further receipt arises under the law 
of 1816, and is an authority derived from it But then the long 
and half-ofHcial exposition which accompanied the publication 
of the order has no faith in the law of 1816 as a source of 
power, but makes a parade of a totally and perfectly inapplica- 
ble section out of the'land law of 1820. Grounds of defence so 
totally inconsistent cannot all be sound, but they may be all 
unsound ; and whether they be so or not, is a question which I 
would willingly leave to the decision of any man of good sense 
and honest judgment I take leave of this part of the case for 
the present I may pause at least, I hope, until those who de- 
fend the order shall be better agreed on what ground to place it 

Mr. President, the subject of the currency is so important, so 
delicate, and, in my judgment, surrounded at the present mo- 
ment with so much both of difficulty and of danger, that I am 
desirous, before making the few observations which I intend, on 
the existing condition of things and its causes, to preclude all 
misapprehension, by a general statement of my opinions respect- 
ing that subject 

I am certainly of opinion, then, that gold and silver, at rates 
fixed by Congress, constitute the legal standard of value in this 
country ; and that neither Congress nor any State has authority 
to establish any other standard, or to displace this. But I am 
also of opinion, that an exclusive circulation of gold and silver 
is a thing absolutely impracticable ; and if practicable, not at all 
to be desired ; inasmuch as its effect would be to abolish credit, 
to repress the enterprise and diminish the earnings of the indus- 
trious classes, and to produce, faster and sooner than any thing 
else in this country can produce, a moneyed aristocracy. 

I am of opinion that a mixed currency, partly coin and partly 
bank-notes, the notes not issued in excess, and always converti- 


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ble into specie at the will of the holder, is, in the present state 
of society, the best practical cunrency ; always remembering, 
however, that bills of exchange perform a great part of the duty 
of currency, and, therefore, that the state of domestic exchange 
is always a matter of high importance and of great actual influ- 
ence on commercial business. 

I admit that a currency partly composed of bank-notes has 
always a liability, and often a tendency, to excess ; and that it 
requires the constant care and oversight of government 

I am of opinion, even, that the convertibility of bank-notes 
into gold and silver, although it be a necessary guard, is not an 
absolute security against occasional excess of paper issues. 

I believe, even, that the confining of discounts to such notes 
and bills as represent real transactions of "purchase and sale, or 
to real business paper, as it is called, though generally a suffi- 
cient check, is not always so ; because I believe there is some- 
times such a thing as over-trading, or over-production. 

What, then, it will be asked, is a sufficient check ? I can only 
repeat what I have before said, that it is a subject which requires 
the constant care, watchfulness, and superintendence of govern- 
ment. But our misfortune is, that we have withdrawn all care 
and all superintendence from the whole subject We have sur- 
rendered the whole matter to eight-and-twenty States and Terri- 
tories. With the power of coinage, and the power and duty of 
regulating commerce, both external and internal, this govern- 
ment has little nwre control over the mass of money which cir- 
culates in the country than a foreign government Upon the 
expiration of the charter of the Bank of the United States, new 
banks were created by the States. Sixty or eighty millions of 
banking capital have thus been added to the mass, since 1832. 
All this it was easy to foresee ; it was all foreseen, and all fore- 
told. The wonder only is, that the evil has not already become 
greater than it is ; and it would have been greater, and we should 
have had such an excess as would perhaps have depreciated the 
currency, had it not been for the extraordinary prosperity of the 
country. No very great excess, I believe, has as yet in fekct hap- 
pened, or rather no very great excess does now exist There are 
sufficient evidences, I think, of this. 

In the first place, the amount of specie in the country is far 
greater than was ever known befove, and it is not exported. In 


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the next place, as all the banks as yet maintain their credit, and 
all pay specie on demand, the whole circulation is, in effect, 
equivalent to a specie circulation ; and the state of the foreign 
exchange shows that the value of our money, in the mass, is not 
depreciated, since it may be transferred without any loss into the 
currency of other countries. Our money, therefore, is as good 
as the money of other countries. If it had fallen below the value 
of money abroad, the rates of exchange would instantly show 
that fact There has been, therefore, as yet, or at least there 
exists at present, no considerable depreciation of money. If, 
then, it be asked what keeps up the value of money, in this vast 
and sudden expansion and increase of it, I have already given 
the answer which appears to me to be the true one. It is kept 
up by an equally vast and sudden increase in the property of 
the country, and in the value of that property, intrinsic as well 
as marketable. None of us, I think, have estimated this increase 
high enough, and for that reason we have all been looking for 
an earlier fall in prices. It seems obvious to me, that an aug- 
mentation in the value of property, far exceeding all former ex- 
perience in any country, even our own, has taken place in the 
United States within the last few years. The public lands may 
furnish one instance of this rapid increase. It was estimated 
last session, by my honorable friend from Ohio,* that the de- 
mands of actual settlers for lands for settlement were eight mil- 
lions of acres per annum, on an average of some years. These 
eight millions, if taken up at government prices at private entry, 
would cost ten millions of dollars. Now, partly by cultivation, 
but more by the continued rush of emigration, both from Eu- 
rope and the Atlantic coast, the value of these ten millions in 
a very few years springs up to forty millions; that is to say, 
lands taken up at a dollar and a quarter an acre soon become 
worth five dollars an acre for actual cultivation, and in intrinsic 
value. And it is to be remembered that these lands are alien- 
able and salable, with as little of form and ceremony, almost, 
as if they were goods and chattels. Now, if we make an esti- 
mate, not merely on the eight millions of acres required for 
actual settlement, but on the whole quantity selected and taken 
up annually, we shall see something of the addition to th* 

* Mr. Ewing. 


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whole amount of property which accmes annually from the 
public lands. A rise has taken place, too, though less striking, 
in the value of other lands in the country; and property, in 
goods, merchandise, products, and other forms, is rapidly aug- 
mented also, both in quantity and value, by the industry and 
skill of the people, and the extension and most successful use 
of machinery. 

Another most important element in the general estimate of 
the progress of wealth in the country is the wonderful annual 
increase of the cotton crops, and the prices which the article 
bears. Last year's crop reached, probably, to eighty millions 
of dollars. Now, most of the cotton produced in the United 
States is sold once, at least, in the country, and much of it 
many times. The bills drawn against it when shipped, either 
for Europe or the Atlantic ports, are usually cashed at the place 
of drawing, commonly, no doubt, by means of bank-notes, or 
bank credits. 

I put all these cases but as instances showing the increased 
value of property and amount of business in the country, and 
accounting therefore for an expansion of the circulation, with- 
out supposing great excess ; since it is obvious that the circulat- 
ing money of a country naturally bears a proportion to the whole 
mass of property, and to the number and amount of business 

But there is another cause of a less favorable character, which 
may have had its effect ahready, or, if not, is very likely to have 
it hereafter, in augmenting the circulation of bank-notes ; I mean 
the obstruction and embarrassment of the domestic exchanges. 
In a proper and natural state of affairs, the place of currency, 
or money, is filled to a great extent by bills of exchange ; and 
this continues to be the case so long as the rates of the exchange 
remain low and steady. Nobody, for example, "^^ill send bank- 
notes or specie from New York to New Orleans, if he can buy 
a good bill at par, or near par. But when exchange becomes 
disturbed, when rates rise and fluctuate, bills cease to be able to 
perform this function, and then bank-notes begin to be sent 
about from place to place, in quantities, to supply the place of 
bills of exchange, in payment of debts and balances. All such, 
and all other, derangements and distractions in the free course 
of domestic exchanges necessarily produce an unnatural and 


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considerable increase of the circulation. So far as our circula- 
tion has been, or may be, augmented by this cause, so far both 
the cause and the effect are to be deplored. In my opinion, we 
have certainly reason to fear this excess hereafter. What is to 
prevent it? Is it possible that so many State banks, so far 
apart, so unknown to each other, with no common objects, no 
common principles of discount, and no general regulation what- 
ever, should act so much in concert, and upon system, as to 
maintain the currency of the country steady, without either 
unjust expansion or unnecessary contraction? I believe it is 
not possible. I believe many of those who insist so much on 
hard-money circulation believe this also; and that they press 
their impracticable hard-money notions, from a consciousness 
that the discontinuance of a national institution has brought the 
country into a condition in which it is threatened with issues of 
irredeemable paper. 

Our present evil, however, is of a different kind, it is, indeed, 
somewhat novel and anomalous. With great general prosperi- 
ty, good crops, generally speaking, an abundance of the precious 
metals, and a favorable state of foreign exchanges, men of busi- 
ness have yet felt, for some months, an unprecedented scarcity 
of money. That is the state of things ; its cause, in my opin- 
ion, is expressed in a few words ; it is the derangement of inter- 
nal intercourse and internal exchange. Our difficulty is not ex- 
haustion, but obstruction. Every body has means enough, but 
nobody can use his means. All the usual channels of commer- 
cial dealing are blocked up. The manufacturers of the North 
cannot obtain from the South the proceeds of the sales of their 
articles ; the South finds money scarce, too, in the midst of its 
abundant exports. 

In a country so extensive and so busy, every merchant's means 
become more or less dispersed, and exist in various places in the 
shape of debts. Exchange is the instrument, the wand, by 
which he reaches forth to these means, wherever they are, and 
uses them for his immediate and daily purposes. But this in- 
strument is broken. He can no longer touch with it his distant 
debt, and make that debt present money. He seeks, therefore, 
for expedients; borrows money, if he can, till times change; 
pays, enormous rates of interest to maintain credit; thinks 
tfaiogs, when at the worst, must soon change ; looks for reactioii, 


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and sacrifices to capitalists, brokers, and money-lenders the 
hard earnings of years, rather than fail to fulfil his commer- 
cial engagements. It is a happy and blessed hour, this, for 
greedy capital and grasping brokerage ; an excruciating one for 
honest industry. The very rich grpw every day richer; the 
laborious and industrious, every day poorer. Meantime, the 
highways of commercial dealing and exchanges grow more and 
more founderous, or are all breaking up. Specie, always most 
useful as the basis of a circulation, when most in repose, gets 
upon the move. Any time the last four months it might have 
happened, and many times doubtless it has happened, that 
steamboats from New York carrying specie to Boston have 
passed in the Sound steamboats from Boston carrying specie to 
New York. Boating and carting money backward and forward 
become the order of the day ; and there are those, who, the more 
they hear of specie hauled and transported about from place to 
place in masses, flatter themselves the more with the idea that 
the country is returning rapidly to a safe and happy specie circu- 
lation ! 

There may be other minor causes. They are not worth enu- 
merating. The great and immediate origin of the evil is dis- 
turbance in the exchange ; and, in my opinion, this disturbance 
has been caused by the agency of the government itself. The 
fifty millions in the treasury have been agitated by unnecessary 
transfers. As a large portion of this sum was to be deposited 
with the States at the beginning of next year, the Secretary 
seems to have thought it necessary to cut up, divide, and remove 
assigned portions of it before the time came. It is this idea of 
removal that has wrought the mischief. In consequence of this, 
money has been taken from places of active commercial busi- 
ness, where it was much needed, and all used, and carried to 
places where it was not needed, and could not be used. 

The agricultural State of Indiana, for example, is full of spe- 
cie ; the highly commercial and manufacturing State of Massa- 
chusetts is nearly drained. In the mean time, the money in In- 
diana cannot be used. It is waiting for the new year. The mo- 
ment the treasury grasp is let loose from it, it will tend again to 
the great marts of business ; that is to say, the restoration of the 
natural state of things will begin to correct the evil of arbitrary 
and artificial financial arrangements. The money will go back 


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to the places where it is wanted. Tt will seek its level and its 
place of usefulness. In nay opinion, the proper execution of the 
deposit law did not make it at all necessary for the treasury to 
order these previous local changes. The law itself is not an- 
swerable for the inconvenience which has resulted. When the 
time came, the States, all of them, would have been very glad 
to receive the money where it was. They wanted but an order 
for it. They desired no carting. Can any things be more pre- 
posterous than to transfer specie from New York to Nashville, 
when to a man in Nashville specie in New York is two per 
cent, more valuable than if he had it in his own house ? There 
is always a tendency in specie, not actually iu the pockets of the 
people, towards the great marts and places of exchange. Those 
who want it, want it there. There the great transactions of 
commerce are performed, and there the means of those transac- 
tions naturally exist, simply because there they are required. 
Now, what reason was there for disturbing the revenue, thus 
lying where it had been collected, and thus mingled with the 
commerce of the country ? Why laboriously drag it off, far 
from its place of useful action, to places where it was not want- 
ed, and could do no good, and there hold it under the key of the 
treasury ? 

This anticipation of the operation of the deposit law, this 
attempt at local distribution, this arbitrary system of transfer, 
which seems to forget at once the necessities of commerce and the 
real uses of money, I regard as the direct and prime cause of the 
pressure felt by the community. But the treasury order came 
powerfully in aid of this. This order checked the use of bank- 
notes in the West, and made another loud call for specie. The 
specie, therefore, is transferred to the West to pay for lands. 
Being received for lands, it becomes public revenue, is brought 
to the East for expenditure, and passes, on its way, other quan- 
tities going West, to buy lands also, and in the same way to 
return again to the East, Now, Sir, how does all this improve 
the currency ? What fraud does it prevent, what speculation 
does it arrest, what monopoly does it suppress? I am very 
much mistaken if all this does not embarrass the small purchaser 
of land much more than the large one. He who has fifty or a 
hundred thousand dollars to lay out may collect his specie, not 
without some charge, it is true, but without a very heavy charge. 


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But if there be a man with a hundred or two dollars, waiting to 
taJce up a Bmall parcel for actual settlement, and bis money be 
in bank-notes, and the bank, perhaps, at a great distance, what 
has he to do ? He must send far to exchange a little money ; or 
else he must submit to any brokerage which he may find estab- 
lished in the neighborhood of the land office. Upon the local 
operation of this order, however, I say the less, as on that point 
Western gentlemen axe better informed and better judges. 

I am willing to hope, Sir, and indeed I do hope and believe, 
that when the first payment or deposit under the act of last 
session shall have been made, and the States shall have found 
some use and employment for the money, and when this un- 
natural transfer system shall cease, money will seek its nat- 
ural channels, and commercial business resume, in some meas- 
ure, its accustomed habits. But this treasury order will be a 
disturbing agent, every hour it is suffered to exist Indeed, it 
eannot be allowed to exist long. It is not possible that the 
West can submit to a measure at once so injurious and so par- 
tial Hard money at the land office, and bank-notes at the cus- 
Uxn-house, must make men open their eyes after a while, what- 
ever degree of political confidence weighs down their lids. I 
look upon it, therefore, as certain, that the order will not be 
permitted long to remain in force. 

If I am now asked. Sir, whether, supposing this order to be 
rescinded, and the deposit law executed, and the transfers dis- 
eontinued, affairs will return to their former state, I answer, with 
all candor, that, though I look, in that case, for a great improve- 
ment, I do not expect to see the domestic exchanges and the 
currency return entirely to their former state. I do not believe 
there is any agency at work, at present, competent to bring 
about this desirable end. In other words, I do not believe that 
the deposit banks, however well administered, can fully supply 
Ihe place of a national institution; and I am very much mis- 
taken if intelligent men, connected with those institutions them- 
selves, believe any such thing. I find, that in 1828, 1829, 1830, 
1831, and 1832, exchange at New York, in the Southern and 
Southwest^n cities, averaged three fourths of one per cent, dis- 
count, or thereabouts. Now I doubt whether the most sanguine 
of those connected with the deposit banks expect to be able, 
through their means, to bring back exchanges to that state, or 
any thing like it 


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The deposit banks are separate and distinct institutions, many 
of them strangers to each other, without full confidence in each 
other, and all acting without uniformity of purpose. Their ob- 
jects are distinct, their capitals distinct, their interests distinct 
If one of them has connection with some others, it yet has no 
unbroken chain of connection. They have nothing which runs 
through the whole circle of the exchanges, as that circle is drawn 
through the great commercial cities of the Union. They can 
only act in the business of exchange to the extent of funds, or 
not much beyond it, actually existing. A national institution, 
with branches or agencies at different points, may deal in ex- 
changes between these points in amounts to meet the conven- 
ience of the public, without reference to the fact of the existence 
of local funds. One institution, therefore, with branches, has 
facilities which never can be possessed by different institutions, 
however honorably or ably conducted. 

For myself, I am of the same opinion as formerly, that for the 
administration of the finances of the country, for the facility of 
internal exchanges, and for the due control and regulation of the 
actual currency, a national institution under proper guards and 
limits is by far the best means within our reach. And I am, as 
I always have been, of opinion, that Congress, having the power 
of regulating commerce and the power over the coinage, has pow- 
er also, which it is bound to exercise, by lawful means, over that 
currency in which the revenue is to be collected, and which is to 
carry on that commerce, external and internal, which is thus 
committed to its regulation and protection. All the duties of 
this government are not fulfilled, in my judgment, while it leaves 
these great interests, thus confided to its own care, to the dis- 
cretion of others, or to the result of chance. But I will not go 
farther into these subjects at the present time. 

Mr. President, I am indifferent to the form in which the treas- 
ury order may be done away. Gentlemen may please them- 
selves in the mode. I shall be satisfied with the substance. 
Believing it to be both illegal and injurious, I shall vote to 
rescind, to revoke, to abolish, to supersede, to do any thing 
which may have the effect of terminating its existence. 


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In Senate, January 80, 1837. 
The bill to limit and designate the funds in which dues to the United 
States shall be receivable having been read a third time, and the ques- 
tion being on its passage, Mr. Morris having concluded an argument 
against the constitutionality of the bill, Mr. Webster said : — 

When the resolution moved by the Senator from Ohio * to 
rescind the treasury order of July last, was under discussion, J 
expressed the sentiments which I then entertained, and which 
I hold now, in regard to that measure. My great object, as I 
then said, and now say, is to get rid of the order. I was not, 
and am not now, very solicitous as to the particular mode. 
When the subject was sent to the Committee on the Public 
Lands, (though my own impression had been that it should 
have been referred rather to the Committee on Finance,) I as- 
sented, in the hope that they would confine what they should 
propose to the single object of getting rid of the order. But 
for that order, I presume that few would have been willing to 
touch the subject at all. The majority of the Senate were 
content that matters should remain as they were under the 
joint resolution of 1816. But as the order interfered with the 
provisions of that resolution, it was deemed necessary that 
something should be done. I regret that this bill is not such a 
one as was called for by the exigency, and confined to the exi- 
gency. It goes beyond what was needed, in important respects, 
and, though I most cordially wish for the abolition of the treas- 
ury order, there are some things in this bill which do not ac- 
cord at all with my own view of what the public interest requires. 
I feel, therefore, somewhat at a loss to know what is the true 
line of my duty on this occasion. 

I will state my difficulties. In the first place, I see nothing 
in the bill that is fixed and stable, defined and determinate; 
nothing peremptory and decisive, as matter of law. I asked the 
honorable chairman who reported the bill, whether he understood 
it to be peremptory in its character, and that it would be so in its 
(ffactical efiect, or not* His ^swi^r was, that he did not doubt 
that its operation would be to produce a great reform in the state 
of the currency. Now what I want to know is, whether this 

• M?. Swing. 
VOL, IV. 25 


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bill will furnish the country with a legal statute rule as to the 
payment of debts ; or whether the whole matter will not be left 
very much in the discretion of the Secretary of the Treasury. 
I think it leaves too much in that discretion. It provides that 
he may issue such orders as he may deem necessary to secure 
the collection of the revenue in specie and bills of specie-paying 
banks. Now, supposing the Secretary should not think that any 
further order of any kind is necessary. Then matters will remain 
precisely as they are now. Suppose he should believe one kind 
of order necessary for one part of the country, and another for 
another part. The bill would allow all this. It secures no uni- 
form or certain rule. 

Again, the particular provisions of the bill appear to me (wiUi 
great deference) not to have been well considered. If its enact- 
ments amount to a positive statute (and not a mere permission 
or recommendation), then neither land scrip nor Revolutionary 
scrip can be received for the public lands; or, if they can be re- 
ceived for the public lands, they can equally be received for the 
customs. This, I presume, was not intended. The bill is im- 
perfect ; it imposes no duty on the Secretary, it enacts no law to 
supersede a treasury order ; the whole subject is left within the 
discretion of the Secretary. 

While, on the one hand, it does not directly relieve the coun- 
try from the existing illegal and unconstitutional treasury order, 
on the other, it does not provide a circulating medium which 
shall be uniform and legal in its character. Could we say, in so 
many words, that all the debts of this government shedl be col- 
lected in such mode as the Secretary of the Treasury shall think 
best? or that such funds shall be received as the Secretary 
shall think most expedient, with a view to increase a specie cir- 
culation ? thus presenting a mere indication of the object he is 
to have in view, and leaving all the rest to him. Would that be 
law? would that be constitutional? What sort of a tender 
might a debtor of the United States make, under this law, in 
discharge of his debt ? Suppose he tenders Virginia land scrip, 
and the answer given him is, " The Secretary of the Treasury 
has not issued any order that land scrip shall be receivable at 
the custom-house," would that not be a good answer ? As this 
bill repeals all other enactments in pari materia^ does it not reiet 
the whole to the Secretary ? May he not issue one order to-day, 


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and another to-morrow ? one order in the Northwest, and an- 
other in the Southwest ? It is surely most important that, on 
snch a subject, there should be a plain, settled, statutory provis- 
ion, declaring what is receivable in discharge of debts due the 
government, so that men may know what are their rights. To 
me it appears that, by this bill, in its present form, the whole 
subject is left in greater doubt than before. If we do any thing 
witti a view to rescinding the objectionable order, let us have a 
bill that shall apply to the exigency, to that single object, and 
give the country some uniform and stable rule. If we reject the 
treasury order, let us reenact the resolution of 1816 ; that will 
get rid of any thing like rebuke or reproach in regard to the 
order, and will give us at least a law to guide us. As the bill 
stands, it leaves every thing at the will of the Secretary of the 


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The Senate having under consideration the resolutions, moved by 
Mr. Benton, for expunging from the journal of proceedings of the Sen- 
ate, for the 28th of March, 1834, a resolution declaring the opinion of 
the Senate concerning the illegality of the removal of the public money 
from its lawful place of deposit, the Bank of the United States ; and the 
debate thereon having come to a close, and the question being about to 
be taken on agreeing to the said resolutions, Mr. Webster rose and 
addressed the Senate as follows : — 

Mr. President, — Upon the truth and justice of the original 
resolution of the Senate, and upon the authority of the Senate 
to pass that resolution, I had an opportunity to express my opin- 
ions at a subsequent period, when the President's Protest was 
before us. Those opinions remain altogether unchanged. 

And now, had the Constitution secured the privilege of enter- 
ing a Protest on the journal, I should not say one word on this 
occasion; although, if what is now proposed shall be accom- 
plished, I know not what would have been the value of such a 
protest, however formally or carefully it might have been inserted 
in the body of that instrument 

But as there is no such constitutional privilege, I can only 
effect my purpose by thus addressing the Senate ; and I rise, 
therefore, to make that PROTEST in this manner, in the face 
of the Senate and in the face of the country, which I cannot 
present in any other form. 

* Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 16th of Jannanr, 
1837, by way of Protest against expunging the Resolution of the 28th of Marcm, 
1834, from the Journal. 


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I speak in my own behalf, and in behalf of my colleague ; we 
both speak as Senators from the State of Massachnsetts, and, 
as such, we solemnly protest against this whole proceeding. 

We deny that Senators from other States have any power or 
authority to expunge any vote or votes which we have given 
here, and which we have recorded, agreeably to the express pro- 
vision of the Constitution. 

We have a high personal interest, and the State whose repre- 
sentatives we are has also a high interest, in the preservation 
entire of every part and parcel of the record of our conduct, as 
members of the Senate. 

This record the Constitution solemnly declares shall be kept; 
but the resolution before the Senate declares that this record 
shall be expunged. 

Whether subterfuge and evasion, and, as it appears to us, the 
degrading mockery of drawing black lines upon the journal, 
shall or shall not leave our names and our votes legible, when 
this violation of the vecord shall have been completed, still the 
terms ^ to expunge " and the terms " to keep," when applied to 
a record, import ideas exactly contradictory ; as much so as the 
terms " to preserve " and the terms " to destroy." 

A record which is expunged is not a record which is kept, any 
more than a record which is destroyed can be a record which is 
preserved. The part expunged is no longer part of the record ; 
it has no longer a legal existence. It cannot be certified as a 
part of the proceedings of the Senate for any purpose of proof 
or evidence. 

The object of the provision in the Constitution, as we think, 
most obviously is, that the proceedings of the Senate shall be 
preserved in writing, not for the present only, not until pub- 
lished only, because a copy of the printed journal is not regular 
legal evidence; but preserved indefinitely; preserved, as other 
records are preserved, till destroyed by time or accident 

Every one must see that matters of the highest importance 
depend on the permanent preservation of the journals of the two 
houses. What but the journals show that bills have been regu- 
larly passed into laws, through the several stages ; what but the 
journals show who are members, or who is President, or Speaker, 
or Secretary, or Clerk of the body ? What but the journals 
contain the proof necessary for the justification of those who act 


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under our authority, and who, without the power of producing 
such proof, must stand as trespassers ? What but the journals 
show who is appointed, and who rejected, by us, on the Presi- 
dent's nomination ; or who is acquitted, or who convicted, in 
trials on impeachment? In shorty is there, at any time, any 
other regular and legal proof of any act done by the Senate than 
the journal itself? 

The idea, therefore, that the Senate is bound to preserve its 
journal only until it is published, and then may alter, mutilatCi 
or destroy it at pleasure, appears to us one of the most extxaw- 
dinary sentiments ever advanced. 

We feel grateful to those friends who have shown, with so 
much clearness, that all the precedents relied on to justify or to 
excuse this proceeding are either not to the purpose, or, from the 
times and circumstances at and under which they happened, are 
no way entitled to respect in a free government, existing under 
a written constitution. But for ourselves, we stand on the plain 
words of that Constitution itself. A thousand precedents else* 
where made, whether ancient or modem, can neither rescind, nor 
control, nor explain away these words. 

The words are, that " each house shall keep a journal of its 
proceedings." No gloss, no ingenuity, no specious interpreta- 
tion, and much less any fair or just reasoning, can reconcile the 
process of expunging with the plain meaning of these words, 
to the satisfaction of the common sense and honest understand- 
ing of mankind. 

If the Senate may now expunge one part of the journal of a 
former session, it may, with equal authority, expunge another 
part, or the whole. It may expunge the entire record of any one 
session, or of all sessions. 

It seems to us inconceivable how any men can regard such a 
power, and its exercise at pleasure, as consistent with the injunc- 
tion of the Constitution. It can make no difference what is the 
completeness or incompleteness of the act of expunging, cr by 
what means done ; whether by erasure, obliteration, or deface- 
ment ; if by defacement, as here proposed, whether one word or 
mflmy words are written on the face of the record ; whether little 
ink or much ink is shed on the paper ; or whether some part, or 
the whole, of the original written journal may yet by possibility 
be traced. If the act done be an act to expunge, to blot out, to 


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obKterate, to erase the record, then the record is expunged, blot- 
ted out, obliterated, and erased. And mutilation and alteration 
violate the record as much as obliteratioji or erasure. A record, 
subsequently altered, is not the original record. It no longer 
gives a just account of the proceedings of the 8enat>e. It is no 
longer tnie. It is, in short, no journal of the real and actual pro- 
ceedings of the Senate, such as the Constitution says each house 
shall keep. 

The Constitution, therefore, is, in our deliberate judgment, 
violated by this proceeding, in the most plain and open manner. 

The Constitution, moreover, provides that the yeas and nays, 
on any question, shall, at the request of one fifth of the mem- 
bers present, be entered on the jovmal. This provision, most 
manifestly, gives a personal right, to those members who may 
demand it, to the entry and preservation of their votes on the 
record of the proceedings of the body, not for one day or one 
year only, but for all time. There the yeas and nays are to 
stand, for ever, as permanent and lasting proof of the manner in 
hich members have voted on great and important questions 
before them. 

But it is now insisted that the votes of members taken by 
yeas and naySj and thus entered on the journal, as matter of 
right, may still be expunged; so that that which it requires 
more than four fifths of the Senators to prevent from being put 
on the journal may, nevertheless, be struck off, and erased, the 
next moment, or at any period afterwards, by the will of a mere 
majority ; or if this be denied, then the absurdity is adopted 
of maintaining that this provision of the Constitution is ful- 
filled by merely preserving the yeas and nays on the journal, 
after having expunged and obliterated the very resolution, or the 
very question, on which they were given, and to w^hich alone 
they refer ; leaving the yeas and nays thus a mere list of names, 
connected with no subject, no question, no vote. We put it to 
the impartial judgment of mankind, if this proceeding bo not 
in this respect also directly and palpably inconsistent with the 

We protest, in the most solemn manner, that other Senators 
have no authority to deprive us of our personal rights, secured 
to us by the Constitution, either by expunging, or obliterating, 
or mutilating, or defacing the record of our votes, duly entered 


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by yeas and nays ; or by expunging and obliterating the reso- 
Intions or questions on which these votes were given and re- 

We have seen, with deep and sincere pain, the legislatures of 
respectable States instructing the Senators of those States to 
vote for and support this violation of the journal of the Senate ; 
and this pain is infinitely increased by our full belief, and entire 
conviction, that most, if not all, these proceedings of States had 
their origin in promptings from Washington; that they have 
been urgently requested and insisted on, as being necessary to 
the accomplishment of the intended purpose ; and that it is noth- 
ing else but the influence and power of the executive branch of 
this government which has brought the legislatures of so many 
of the free States of this Union to quit the sphere of their ordi- 
nary duties, for the purpose of cooperating to accomplish a 
measure, in our judgment, so unconstitutional, so derogatory to 
the character of the Senate, and marked with so broad an im- 
pression of compliance with power. 

But this resolution is to pass. We expect it That cause 
which has been powerful enough to influence so many State 
legislatures will show itself powerful enough, especially with 
such aids, to secure the passage of the resolution here. 

We make up our minds to behold the spectacle which is to 
ensue. We collect ourselves to look on in silence, while a scene 
is exhibited, which, if we did not regard it as a ruthless violation 
of a sacred instrument, would appear to us to be little elevated 
above the character of a contemptible farce. This scene we 
shall behold, and hundreds of American citizens, as many as 
may crowd into these lobbies and galleries, will behold it also ; 
with what feelings I do not undertake to say. 

But we PROTEST, we most solemnly protest, against the sub- 
stance and against the manner of this proceeding ; against its 
object, against its form, and against its effect We tell you that 
you have no right to mar or mutilate the record of our votes 
given here, and recorded according to the Constitution ; we tell 
you that we may as well erase the yeas a/nd nays on any other 
question or resolution, or on all questions and resolutions, as on 
this ; we tell you that you have just as much right to falsify the 
record, by so altering it as to mike us appear to have voted on 
any question as we did not vote, as you have to erase a record, 


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and make that page a blank in which our votes, as they were 
actaally given and recorded, now stand. The one proceeding, 
as it appears to us, is as much a falsification of the record as the 

Having made this PROTEST, our duty is performed. We 
rescue our own names, character, and honor from all participa- 
tion in this matter ; and whatever the wayward character of the 
times, the headlong and plunging spirit of party devotion, or the 
fear or the love of power, may have been able to bring about 
elsewhere, we desire to thank Grod that they have not, as yet, 
overcome the love of liberty, fidelity to true republican principles, 
and a saored regard for the Constitution, in that State whose 
soil was drenched to a mire by the first and best blood of the 
Revolution. Massachusetts, a^ yet, has not been conquered; 
aad while we have the honor to hold seats here as her Senators, 
we shall never consent to the sacrifice either of her rights or our 
own ; we shall never fail to oppose what we regard as a plain 
and open violation of the (Constitution of the country ; and we 
should have thought ourselves wholly unworthy of her, if we 
had not, with all the solemnity and earnestness in our power,' 
PROTESTED agaiust the adoption of the resolution now before the 


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I RISE, Mr. President, for the purpose of presenting to the 
Senate a petition signed by fourteen or fifteen hundred mercan- 
tile houses in the city of New York, praying for the establish- 
ment of a national bank in that city. These petitioners. Sir, 
set forth that, in their opinion, a national bank is the only reme- 
dy of a permanent character for the correction of the evils now 
affecting the currency of the country and the commercial ex- 
changes. The petition is accompanied by a short communica- 
tion from the committee raised for the purpose of preparing the 
petition, in which they state, what I believe to be true, firom 
some knowledge of my own, that the petition is subscribed with- 
out reference to political distinctions ; and they inform us, on the 
authority of their own observation and kiiowledge, that, in their 
opinion, on no subject did the mercantile community of New 
York ever address Congress with more entire unanimity than 
they now approach it, in favor of a national bank. 

Mr. President, my own opinions on this subject have long 
been known; and they remain now what they always have 
been. The constitutional power of Congress to create a bank 
is made more apparent by the acknowledged necessity which 
the government is under to use some sort of banks as fiscal 
agents. The argument stated the other day by the member 
firom Ohio, opposite to me,t and which I have suggested often 
heretofore, appears to me unanswerable ; and that is, that, if the 
government has the power to use corporations in the fiscal con- 

* Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 8th of Februair, 
1837, on presenting a Petition of a large Number of the Merchants of New Yon, 
for the Establishment of a National Bank. 

t Mr. Morris. 


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cerns of the country, it must have the power to create such cor- 
porations. I have always thought that, when, by law, both 
houses of Congress declared the use of State banks necessary 
to the administration of the revenue, every argument against the 
constitutional power of Congress to create a Bank of the United 
States was thereby surrendered ; that it is plain that, if Con- 
gress has the power to adopt banks for the particular use of the 
government, it has the power to create such institutions also, if 
it deem that mode the best. No government creates corpora- 
tions for the mere purpose of giving existence to an artificial 
body. It is the end designed, the use to which it is to be 
appUed, that decides the question, in general, whether the power 
exists to create such bodies. If such a corporation as a bank 
be necessary to government ; if its use be indispensable, and if, 
on that ground. Congress may take into its service banks created 
by States, over which it has no control, and which are but poorly 
fitted for its purposes, how can it be maintained that Congress 
may not create a bank, by its own authority, responsible to 
itself, and well suited to promote the ends designed by it ? 

Mr. President, when the subject was last before the Senate, 
I expressed my own resolution not to make any movement 
towards the establishment of a national bank, till public opinion 
should call for it In that resolution I still remain. But it gives 
me pleasure to have the opportunity of presenting this petition, 
out of respect to the signers ; and I have no unwillingness cer- 
tainly to have a proper opportunity of renewing the expression 
of my opinions on the subject, although I know that, so gen- 
eial has become the impression hostile to such an institution, 
any movement here would be vain till there is a change in pub- 
He opinion. That there will be such a change I fully believe ; 
it will be brought about, I think, by experience and sober reflec- 
tion among the people ; and when it shall come, then will be the 
proper time for a movement on the subject in the public councils. 
Not only in New York, but firom here to Maine, I believe it is 
now the opinion of five sixths of the whole mercantile com- 
munity, that a national bank is indispensable to the steady 
regulation of the currency, and the facility and cheapness of 
exchanges. The board of trade at New York presented a me- 
morial in favor of the same object some time ago. The Com- 
mittee on Finance reported against the prayer of the petitioners, 


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a8 was to have been expected from the known sentiments of a 
majority of that committee. In presenting this petition now to 
the consideration of the Senate, I have done all that I pmrpose 
on this occasion, except to move that the petition be laid on the 
table and printed. 

Sir, on the subjects of currency and of the exchanges of com- 
merce, experience is likely to make us wiser than we now are. 
Th^e highly interesting subjects, interesting to the property, the 
business, and the means of support of aU classes, ought not to 
be connected with mere party questions and temporary politics. 
In the business and transactions of life, men need security, 
steadiness, and a permanent system. This is the very last field 
for the exhibition of experiments, and I fervently hope that 
intelligent men, in and out of Congress, will cooperate in meas- 
ures which may be reasonably expected to accomplish these 
desirable objects, desirable and important alike to all classes and 
descriptions of people. 

The petition and accompanying letter were then ordered to be 


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The joint resolution for making an appropriation for the purchase oi 
the manuscript papers of the late President Madison, relative to the pro- 
ceedings of the Convention that framed the Constitution of the United 
States, being under consideration, Mr. Webster spoke as follows : — 

I SUPPOSE there is no member of the Senate who regards the 
snm proposed to be given for these manuscripts as too large, if 
the appropriation is within the just field of our constitutional 
powers. Now, what is the object of this appropriation ? The 
Senate sits under a Constitution which has now endured more 
than fifty years, which was formed under very peculiar circum- 
stances, under a great exigency, and in a manner in which no 
constitution was ever formed in any other country, on principles 
of united and yet divided legislation, altogether unexampled in 
the history of free states. I agree fully in the sentiment that 
the constant rule of interpretation to be applied to this instru- 
ment is, that its restrictions are contained in itself, and that it 
is to be made, as far as possible, its own interpreter. I also 
agree that the practice under the government, for a long course 
of years, and the opinions of those who both formed the instru- 
ment, and afterward aided in carrying it into effect by laws 
passed under its authority, are to be the next source of interpre- 
tation ; and it seems to me that the measure now proposed is 
of great importance, both in connection with the Constitution 
itself, and with the history of its interpretation. I shall not now 
speak of the political opinions of Mr. Madison. I look only to the 
general facts of the case. It is well known that the convention 

• Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 20th of February, 
1837, in relation to the Purchase of the Manuscript Papers of Mr. Madison. 
VOL. IV. 26 


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of great men who formed our Constitution sat with closed doors; 
that no report of their proceedings was published at that time ; 
and that their debates were listened to by none but themselves 
and the ofiicers in attendance. We have, indeed, the official 
journal kept by their order. It is an important document, but it 
informs us only of their official acts. We get from it nothing 
whatever of the debates in that illustrious body. Besides this, 
there are only a few published sketches, more or less valuable. 
But the connection of Mr. Madison with the Constitution and 
the government, and his profound knowledge of all that related 
to both, would necessarily give to any reports which he should 
have taken a superior claim to accuracy. It was his purpose, 
when he entered the body, to report its whole proceedings. He 
chose a position which best enabled him to do so ; nor was he 
absent a single day during the whole period of its sittings. It 
was further understood that his report of the leading speeches 
had been submitted to the members for correction. The fact 
was well known to them all, that he was thus collecting materi- 
als for a detailed report of their proceedings. Without, there- 
fore, seeing a page of these manuscripts, it is reasonable to con- 
clude that they must contain matter not only highly interesting, 
but very useful ; and it is my impression that, among this class 
of cases, the Senate could not better consult the wishes and in- 
terests of the American people than by letting them see a docu- 
ment of this character, from the pen of such a man as Mr. Mad- 
ison. That gentleman was more connected with the Constitu- 
tion than almost any other individual. He was present in that 
little assemblage that met at Annapolis in 1786, with whom the 
idea of the Convention originated. He was afterwards a mem- 
ber of the convention of Virginia which ratified the Constitu- 
tion. He was next a member of the first Congress, and took an 
important lead in the great duties of its legislation under that 
Constitution in the formation of which he had acted so con- 
spicuous a part He afterwards filled the important station of 
Secretary of State, and was subsequently for eight years Presi- 
dent of the United States. Thus, his whole life was intimately 
connected, first with the formation, and then with the adminis- 
tration, of the Constitution. 

Mr. President, 1 see no constitutional objection to the purchase 
of these manuscripts. Why do Congress purchase every yeai 


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works on history, geography, botany, metaphysics, and morals ? 
How was it that they purchased a collection of works of the 
most miscellaneous character from Mr. Jefferson ? The manu- 
scripts in question stand in a different relation. They relate 
immediately and intimately to the nation's own affairs, and 
especially to the construction of that great instrument under 
which the houses of Congress are now sitting. If the doctrine 
advanced by the Senator from South Carolina is to prevail, 
Congress ought forthwith to clear its library of every thing but 
the state papers. My views on the Constitution are well known ; 
whether an inspection of these papers will confirm and strength- 
en the views I entertain respecting that instrument, I cannot 
say ; but certainly, if they were now within my reach, I should 
be very eager to read them ; and their examination would be 
one of the very first things that I should engage in. A report of 
such debates, from such a pen, cannot but be of the highest im- 
portance, and its perusal is well calculated to gratify a rational 
curiosity. It may throw much light on the early interpretation 
of the Constitution, and on the nature and structure of our gov- 
ernment But while it produces this effect, it may do more 
than all other things to show to the people of the United States 
through what conciliation, through what a temper of compro- 
mise, through what a just yielding of the judgment of one in- 
dividual to that of another, through what a spirit of manly 
brotherly love, that assembly of illustrious men were enabled 
finally to agree upon the form of a Constitution for their coun- 
try, and succeeded in conferring so great a good upon the Amer- 
ican people. 


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The bill to reduce the tariff being under consideration, Mr. Niles of 
Connecticut moved to amend the bill as follows : — 

" That, from and after the 30th day of September, 1837, the duty 
on fossil coal, culm coal screenings, and coke, imported into the United 
States, shall be one dollar per ton of two thousand two hundred and 
forty pounds ; and that after the 30th day of September, 1838, the duty 
shall be sixty cents per ton." 

Mr. Niles and Mr. Buchanan having spoken, Mr. Webster said : — 

It has been very truly stated, that coal is, in this country, a 
necessary of life; and an argument has thence been drawn 
which is capable of producing a very erroneous impression in 
the community, namely, that the interest of the poor requires 
the interposition of Congress to remove the duty now levied on 
its importation. Considering what has been the former course 
of Congress on this subject, it is as clear a proposition as can 
be stated, that the interest of the poor requires the continuance 
of the tax. If I were not convinced of this, I certainly should 
not be in favor of retaining it Whether we look to the de- 
bates of the Convention or to the earliest acts of the federal gov- 
ernment, we shall perceive that it was admitted to be proper and 
necessary to levy a duty on imported coal. One of the very first 
articles enumerated in the first revenue law is foreign coal. The 
protection of the domestic article was warmly advocated, at that 
time, by the Virginia delegation, as an obvious duty of the new 
government; for, although all duties had had revenue as their 
main object, yet ever since 1824 many of them had been con- 

• Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 94th of Februazy, 
1837, in relation to the Redaction of the Duty on Coal. 


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tinaed for other purposes, and among the rest, this duty on 
coal. I voted against retaining it ; but from that time to this 
the duty has retained its place in the law, on a presumed pledge 
of protection to such of our own citizens as are engaged in fur- 
nishing coal from the mines of our own country. A large 
amount of capital has been invested in machinery and wages, 
and also in the construction of canals and raihroads leading from 
the mines towards places of deposit or shipment. An examina- 
tion will show that the sum thus invested is not less than forty 
millions of dollars. What, then, is the proper course to be pur- 
sued with a view to bring down the price of coal ? American 
coal is not the only fuel of this kind in market It stands along- 
side of the imported article, and there is a fair competition be- 
tween them. Is there any thing so effectual in reducing the 
price as a fair and free competition ? Here the skill and indus- 
try of our own and of foreign nations compete for the market; 
and, if any thing is likely to reduce the price of this necessary X,^^ 
of life, and thus to benefit the poor, it is this.* That taking off -^^ 
the duty will reduce the price is perfect nonsense. The effect 
will be just the reverse. - ^- 

It was this continual bringing forward of propositions to alter 
the most settled features of our policy, which is, in practice, so 
injurious to American industry and enterprise. In illustration 
of this remark, I will observe that it is not long since a very cu- 
rious debate took place in London, at a meeting of the creditors 
of the late Duke of York. Among other items of his property 
was a great coal mine in Nova Scotia. Certain trustees of the 
estate had been directed to work it The question with the 
creditors was, whether the working of this mine should still be 
prosecuted, or what should be done with it On inquiring of 
the trustees, those gentlemen stated that the mine was now not 
very productive, but that the policy of the American government 
in relation to duties was vacillating and uncertain; that very 
soon the protective duty on foreign coal would probably be taken 
off, and then they would have the entire American market The 
proposition of the honorable Senator from Connecticut is calcu- 
lated to hasten this state of things, and to justify the calculation 
of these British trustees. So it seems that* the motion of the 
creditors of the Duke of York is to aid the poor of the United 
States! The effect will be found directly the reverse. The re- 


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peal of the duty wiU be immediately followed by an ino'ease of 
the price of the article. 

The speech of the honorable Senator seemed to proceed on 
the assumption that Pennsylvania alone was to be affected by 
the measure proposed. But such is by no means the fact It is 
very true that Pennsylvania is largely interested. She possesses 
extensive coal mines, and large amounts of capital have been 
invested by her citizens in this branch of enterprise. But the 
mountains of Maryland are as rich in bituminous coal as those 
of Pennsylvania are in the anthracite. Why has the govern- 
ment subscribed so largely to aid in the construction of the 
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal ? Is it not expressly with a view 
to reaching the extensive coal beds near Cumberland? That 
canal, when completed, will be possessed of great facilities, and 
in some respects will have the advantage over the canals of 
Pennsylvania, because it will not be frozen so early in the sea- 
son. Congress have done this partly with a view to securing their 
own supply. It tA said, indeed, that the freight on coal is very 
large ; but every body knows that, while our exports are cum- 
brous, coal is brought back partly as ballast Vessels which take 
out cargoes of cotton bring coal, as they bring salt, on their return 
voyage, at very low rates, so that there is no great protection to 
our own miners in that respect 

I object to this breaking in upon a course of long-established 
and settled policy. This item of coal presents one of the clear- 
est cases in the whole list of protected articles. It stands on as 
firm ground as woollens themselves, because the business of 
supplying it to the home market cannot be carried on without a 
great investment of capital That investment has been actually 
made. The enterprise is in a course of successful operation, and 
the ultimate effect must be the supply of this important article 
of fuel at the cheapest practicable rate. The fears of monopoly 
are groundless ; the canals are open to all ; so is the mountain 
property ; and it is abundant in Pennsylvania, in Virginia, and 
in the States on both sides of the great mountain range. If 
any reliance is to be placed on information received, the article 
can be furnished in abundance, with a reasonable profit, at a 
cheap rate. Under these circumstances, would it be wise in 
government to interfere ? No complsdnt has been heard till 
within one season past; and because there is, at this time, a 


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temporary pressure, is it worth while to raise the cry of the poor 
against the rich, and thus to destroy a branch of industry which 
is in itself, and in its consequences, an invaluable boon to the 
poor? Is this a long-sighted policy ? I think not ; and it is evi- 
dent the Committee on Finance have thought not, for they have 
not inserted this item in the bill. 

This protective duty on coal stands upon a just foundation ; 
it is subject to the gradual operation of the act of 1833, and 
ought not to be meddled with. This is no case in which the 
abuses of " regraters, forestallers," &c., call for the interposition 
of the law. The trade is free and open to all ; coal lands are 
cheap, and in market everywhere, but it requires the outlay 
of some capital to turn them to account. If this perpetual cry 
against every thing which requires capital, and this crusade 
against all who possess it, are to be indulged, how can the inter- 
nal improvement of the country ever go on ? The nation, while 
surrounded by all manner of natural advantages, must sit down 
content to be poor. Is it not manifest, where few are very rich, 
that any thing which carries on the work of supply must be 
accomplished by combination and the collection of capital ? If 
the government are resolved not to leave the enterprises of our 
citizens to the effect of fair competition, but perpetually inter- 
pose under the false notion of protecting the poor, great results 
can never be produced. The Pennsylvania canals have been 
decried as a monopoly. They are not a monopoly. Some of 
them belong to the State, and, with a wise and liberal policy, 
she has thrown them open to all. Since the government has, 
by its own acts, invited this investment, will you not consent 
to let well enough alone ? I am not willing to turn accidents, 
or mere transient and temporary difficulties, into the grounds 
of continuous usage. I wish to see other avenues opened to 
the mountains, as well as those of Pennsylvania. I hold that 
the true interest of the community in relation to this supply of 
coal, and in consideration of the present state of things, is to 
let those who have embarked in the business go on, till compe- 
tition between them shall, by its natural operation, bring down 
the price to its minimum. To that point it is fast hastening; 
and when that has been reached, it will be time enough to con- 
sider whether any other and further legislation upon the subject 
is necessary. 


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After some further remarks by Mr. Niles and Mr. Preston, Mr. Web- 
ster said : — 

I should not have entered farther into the present debate if 
the member from Connecticut had not (as unfortunately he too 
often does) both misunderstood and misrepresented it. The 
member has represented me as saying the reverse of what I did 
say. That gentleman has quoted me as asserting that the poor 
have no interest in the reduction of the price of coal, whereas I 
88dd exactly the reverse. The honorable member seems to be in 
the habit of framing remarks for others, and then commenting 
upon them. I expressly declared that, if I thought the interest of 
the poor would be promoted by reducing this tax, I would vote 
for its reduction, and that I was opposed to it only because I 
believed that the true interest of that class, and of every other 
class in the community, required that the government should 
keep its hands off from the subject entirely. I again and again 
declared that I did not mean to advocate the cause of the rich in 
opposing this reduction, because I believed that keeping on the 
tax would eventually bring down the price of the article to the 
poor. The member does not meet this argument. He does not 
contradict it, but stalks around it, while he dwells upon monopo- 
lies and the influence of rich men on the legislation of Congress. 
I do not doubt that the object at which the Senator means to 
aim is to make coal cheap ; and does he not understand that 
this too is my aim ? How, then, can he impute to me the de- 
sign to protect the capitalist, in derogation of the laborer ? to 
advance wealth and disregard numbers ? I hope we shall all in 
future endeavor to state each other's arguments with at least 
some degree of fairness. 

Coal is a necessary of life to all ; to the poor as well as to the 
rich. The object to be attained is to get it as cheap as possible. 
The existing state of things has grown up under laws passed 
fifteen years ago, and the question is, whether, under that state 
of things, the proposition of the member from Connecticut 
would, in its principal result, lower the market price of this spe- 
cies of fuel. The member thinks it would. I think otherwise, 
and have given reasons for this opinion which I hope are not 
altogether contemptible, and such as do not rightfully expose me 
to the charge of advocating the interests of wealth against labor. 
My argument was briefly this. Here is a large capital actually 


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invested in roads, canals, and machinery, the effect of which 
will, in a short time, make coal abundant, and thereby make it 
cheap ; while, in the mean while, the foreign supply is not wholly 
excluded, and enough is imported to keep down the price by 
competition. The honorable member thinks that Congress, by 
taking off this tax, would give the exclusive power of keeping 
up the price to American producers. I differ from him in opin- 
ion. I think that, by taking off this tax, we shall give that 
power to British producers, and make our citizens the victims of '^ 
their extortions. Do not rich men as well as poor men make 
use of coal as a fuel ? Is it not their interest to have fuel cheap, 
as well as the interest of every body else ? 

Ah, but the member is for the protection of labor. Very true. 
And I insist that the protective policy of the United States is 
aimed point-blank at the protection of labor. Do not the poor 
of our cities warm themselves over coal fires ? What glowing 
pictures, or rather what shivering pictures of suffering have been 
presented to the Senate in the eloquent descriptions (if he thinks 
them eloquent) of the honorable gentleman from South Caro- 
lina I But was not the laboring class in our cities the very first 
who received the protection of this government ? The first de- 
mand of a constitution was for their protection. It was the 
operatives spread along the Atlantic coast whose voices brought 
the Constitution into being. It was not the voices of Hancock 
and Adams, but of Paul Revere and his artisans, that most effi- 
ciently advocated the movement for independence. It was the 
pouring in of a flood of foreign manufactures that gave the first 
impulse towards the adoption of a constitution for our own pro- 
tection ; and has not the labor of the whole country been pro- 
tected under it to this day ? Have not the laboring classes of 
the United States their life and breath and being under that in- 
stramcnt ? Take off the protection which it extends to the hat- 
ters and the shoemakers, and the whole class of mechanics who 
work in leather, and see what would be the result Go to the 
gentleman's own State * and take off the duty on tin-ware, and 
he might possibly hear the tinkling of that argument Three 
cents on every coffee-pot ! What would the member say to that ? 

But it becomes enlightened legislators to take a different view 

* Connectiout 


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of this subject. The true way to protect the poor is to protect 
their labor. Give them work and protect their earnings ; that is 
the way to benefit the poor. Our artisans, I repeat it, were the 
first to be protected by the Constitution. The protection ex- 
tended under our laws to capital was as nothing to that which 
was given to labor; and so it should be. Since, in the year 
1824, I stood upon this ground, I have retained the same posi- 
tion, and there I mean to stand. The free labor of the United 
States deserves to be protected, and, so far as any efforts of 
mine can go, it shall be. The gentleman from Connecticut tells 
us that coal is a bounty of Providence ; that our mountains are 
full of it ; that we have only to take hold of what God has given 
us. Well, Sir, I am for protecting the man who does take hold 
of it ; who bores the rock ; who penetrates the mountain ; who 
excavates the mine, and by his assiduous labor puts us into the 
practical possession of this bounty of Providence. It is not 
wealth while it lies in the mountain. It is human labor which 
brings it out and makes it wealth. I am for protecting that 
poor laborer whose brawny arms thus enrich the State. I am 
for providing him with cheap fuel, that he may warm himself 
and his wife and children. 

I observe that the very next item in the bill is one connected 
with the woollen factories in Connecticut Will the honorable 
member go against all protecting principles ? Will he talk to us 
on that item as he has done on this ? Does not the poor man 
wear a cloth coat ? Does he not want a great coat in cold 
weather ? And is not that cloth taxed, and taxed for the benefit 
of Connecticut, and for the capitalists of Connecticut? Is cloth 
no necessary of life ? Will the member draw us as fine a picture 
of the poor man shivering for want of a great coat of Connecti- 
cut cloth, as for want of a fire of Pennsylvania coal ? Sir, the 
man who catches hold of a little idea here, and a little idea 
there, and holds these out to us to show that a great line of na- 
tional policy is unjust, takes a view, in my apprehension, too 
little comprehensive. We must not tax the fuel with which the 
poor man warms himself, because it is a necessary of life. And 
pray what will the honorable member do with bread ? Is not 
that a necessary of life ? And will any man here rise in his place, 
and move to take off the duty on wheat ? Are not thousands 
of bushels imported from Europe ? Does not the poor man pay 


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the tax on it ? Again I ask, will the honorable member bring 
in a bill to take off the duty on wheat? There is a duty 
on brown sugar; will he move to repeal that? K he will com- 
prehend all the items included under the same principle of econ- 
omy, it will show at least some consistency ; but to select this 
article of coal, and urge us to make it free because it is a ne- 
cessary of life, while he advocates a tax on other things equally 
necessary, is to act with no consistency at all. I know very 
well that many of the citizens of Boston have applied to have 
this tax diminished, and, if I thought it could with propriety be 
done, I -would cheerfully do it Some petitions, too, have been 
presented from one of our fishing towns ; but they ought to re- 
member that all bounties on the fisheries, as well as this duty on 
coal, rest upon one great basis of mutual concession for the pro- 
tection of labor, and for the benefit especially of the operative 
classes of society. And whoever says that this is a system 
which favors capital at the expense of the poor, misrepresents its 
advocates, and perverts the whole matter. 

There are many other views which belong to the subject, but 
I will not now prosecute the argument My object is to make 
coal cheap, permanently cheap ; cheap to the poor man as well 
as the rich man ; and to that end we shall arrive, if the laws 
are suffered to take their course. But to meddle with them, in 
the existing state of things, is the very worst thing that can be 
done either for poor or rich. 


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The importance of the present crisis, and the urgency of this 
occasion, are such as to lead me earnestly to desire that some 
measures of adequate relief may come from those who alone 
have the power to effect any thing, by the majority which they 
command. Much as I differ from them, I would be glad 
to accept any measure of substantial relief which they may 
bring forward. I think. Sir, I see such a necessity for relief as 
never before, within my recollection, has existed in this country ; 
and I regret to be obliged to say, that the measures proposed by 
the President, in his message to Congress, and reiterated by the 
SecretaJy of the Treasury, in his report to the same body, only 
regard one object, and are, in their tendency, only directed to 
one branch of partial relief. The evils, however, under which 
the community now suffers, though related to each other, and 
of the same family, are yet capable of distinct consideration. 
In the first place, there are the wants of the treasury, arising 
from the stoppage of payments and the falling off of the reve- 
nue. This is an exigency requiring the consideration of CJon- 
gress ; it is an evil threatening to suspend the functions of at 
least one department of the gCFvemment, unless it be remedied. 
Another and a greater evil is the prostration of credit, the inter- 
ruption brought upon all business transactions, arising from the 
suspension of all the local banks throughout the country, with 
some few and trifling exceptions. Hence have proceeded a 
prostration of the local currency, and a serious obstruction and 
difficulty in the way of buying and selling. A third want 

* A Speech delivered in the Senate of the United States, on the 14th of Sep- 
tember, 1837, on the Bill to postpone the Payment to the States of the Fonrth 
Instalment of the Surplus Revenue. 


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is the want of an accredited paper medium, equal to specie, 
having equal credit over all parts of the country, capable of 
serving for the payment of debts and carrying on the internd 
business of the country throughout and between the diiferent 
and distant sections of this great Union. These three evils, 
though they are coexistent and cognate in their being, cannot be 
met by the same measures of relief. It does not follow, if relief 
is given to the one, that you will relieve the others. If you 
replenish the treasury, and thus bring a remedy to that evil, this 
affords no relief to the disordered currency. Again ; if the local 
currency is relieved, it does not supply the other want, namely, 
that of a universally accredited medium. 

It is no doubt a matter of general remark, that the most im- 
portant objection to the message is, that it says nothing about 
relief to the country, directly and mainly ; the whole amount of 
the proposition it contains relates to the government itself; the 
interest of the community is treated as collateral, incidental, and 
contingent So, in the communication made by the Secretary 
of the Treasury, the state of the currency, the condition in 
which the commerce and trade of the country now are, is not 
looked at as a prominent and material object. The Secretary's 
report, as well as the message itself, exclusively regards the in- 
terest of the government, forgetting or passing by the people. 
The outpourings of the Secretary, which are very considerable 
in quantity, are under seven heads, the exact number of the sev- 
en vials of which we read ; but the contents of none of thbse 
are concocted or prepared in reference to the benefit of the com- 
munity ; all the medicine is intended for the government treas- 
ury, and there is none for the sickness and disease of society, 
except collaterally, remotely, and by the way. It is, however, to 
the credit of the President that he has given, in an unequivocal 
and intelligible manner, hir reasons for not recommending a 
plan for the relief of the country ; and they are, that, according to 
his view, it is not within the constitutional province of govern- 
ment I confess this declaration is to me quite astounding, and 
I cannot but think that, when it comes to be considered, it will 
produce a shock throughout the country. This avowed disre- 
gard for the public distress, upon the ground of the alleged want 
of power ; this exclusive concern for the interest of government 
and revenue; this broad line of distinction, now, for the fiist 

VOL. IV. 27 


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time, drawn between the interests of the government and the in- 
terests of the people, must certainly be regarded as commencing 
a new era in our politics. For one, I consider government as but 
a mere agency ; it acts not for itself, but for the country ; the 
whole end and design of its being are to promote the general in- 
terests of the community. Peculiar interests, selfish interests, 
exclusive regard for itself, are wholly incompatible with the ob- 
jects of its institution, and pervert it from its true character as 
an agency for the people into a separate, dominant power, with 
purposes and objects exclusively its own. 

Holding decided opinions on this subject, and being pre- 
pared to stand by and maintain them, I am certainly rejoiced at 
the clear shape which the question has at last assumed. Now, 
he that runs may read ; there are none but can see what the 
question is : Is there any duty incumbent on this government to 
superintend the actual currency of the country ? Has it any 
thing to do beyond the regulation of the gold and silver coin ? 
In that state of mixed currency which existed when the Ck)nsti- 
tution was formed, and which has existed ever since, is it, or is 
it not, a part of the duty of the government to exercise a super- 
visory care and concern over that which constitutes by far the 
greater part of that currency ? In other words, may this govern- 
ment abandon to the States and to the local banks, without con- 
trol or supervision, the unrestrained issue of paper for circula- 
tion, without any attempt, on its own part, to establish a paper 
medium which shall be equivalent to specie, and universally ac- 
credited all over the country ? Or, Mr. President, to put the 
question in still other words, since this government has the regu- 
lation of trade, not only between the United States and foreign 
countries, but between the several States themselves, has it nev- 
ertheless no power over that which is the most important and 
essential agent or instrument of trade, the actual circulating 
medium ? On these questioit, as I have ahready said, I enter- 
tain sentiments wholly different from those which the message 

It is, in my view, an imperative duty imposed upon this gov- 
ernment by the Constitution, to exercise a supervisory care and 
control over aJl that is in the country assuming the nature of a 
currency, whether it be metal or whether it be paper ; all the 
coinage of the country is placed in the power of the federal 


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government ; no State, by its stamp, can give value to a brass 
farthing. The power to regulate trade and commerce between 
the United States and foreign or Indian nations, and also be- 
tween the respective States themselves, is expressly conferred 
by the Constitution upon the general government It is dear 
that the power to regulate commerce between the States carries 
with it, not impliedly, but necessarily and directly, a full power 
of regulating the essential element of commerce, namely, the cur- 
rency of the country, the money, which constitutes the life and 
soul of commerce. We live in an age when paper money is an 
essential element in all trade between the States ; its use is in- 
separably connected with all commercial transactions. That it 
is so is now evident, since, by the suspension of those institu- 
tions from which this kind of money emanates, all business is 
comparatively at a stand. Now, Sir, what I maintain is simply 
this; that it surely is the duty of somebody to take care of 
the currency of the country ; it is a duty imposed upon some 
power in this country, as in every other civilized nation in the 

I repeat. Sir, that it is the duty of some government or other 
to supervise the currency. Surely, if we have a paper medium 
in the country, it ought only to exist under the sanction and 
supervision of the government of the country. If the general 
government does not exercise this supervision, who else, I should 
like to know, is to do it ? Who supposes that it belongs to any 
of the State governments, for example, to provide for or regulate 
the currency between New Orleans and New York ? 

The idea has been thrown out, that it is not the duty of the 
government to make provision for domestic exchanges, and the 
practice of other governments has been referred to ; but in this 
particular, I think, a great mistake has been committed. It is 
certainly far otherwise in England ; she provides for them most 
admirably, though by means perhaps not altogether in our pow- 
er. She, however, and other nations provide for them, and it 
is plain and obvious that, if we are to have a paper medium of 
general credit in this country, it must be under the sanction and 
supervision of the government Such a currency is itself a 
proper provision for exchanges. If there be a paper medium 
always equivalent to coin, and of equal credit in every part of 
the country, this itself becomes a most important instrument of 


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exchange. Currency and exchange thus become united; in 
providing for one, government provides for the other. If the 
government will do its duty on the great subject of the currency, 
the mercantile and industrious classes will feel the benefit 
through all the operations of exchange. No doubt some modes 
of establishing such a currency may be more favorable to ex- 
change than others ; but, by whatever mode established, such a 
currency must be extensively useful. The question, therefore, 
comes to this, whether we are to have such a medium. I under- 
stand there are gentlemen who are opposed to all paper money, 
who would have no circulating medium whatever but gold and 
silver. This, at all events, is an intelligible proposition ; but as 
to those who say that there may be a paper medium, and yet 
that there shall be no such medium universally receivable, and 
of general credit, however honest the purposes of such gentle- 
men may be, I cannot perceive the soundness of their views ; 1 
cannot comprehend the utility of their intentions ; I can have 
no faith. Sir, in any such systems. I would ask this plain 
question, whether any one imagines that all the duty of gov- 
ernment, in respect to the currency, is comprised in merely tak- 
ing care that the gold and silver coin be not debased, if this 
be all its duty, that duty is performed, for there is no debase- 
ment of them ; they are good and sound. If this is all the duty 
of government, it has done its duty ; but if government is bound 
to regulate commerce and trade, and consequently to exercise 
oversight and care over that which is the essential element of 
all the transactions of commerce, then government has done 

I shall not, however, enter into this question to-day, nor per- 
haps on any early occasion. My opinions upon it are all well 
known, and I leave it with great confidence to the judgment of 
the country, only expressing my strong conviction that, until the 
people do make up their minds, and cause the result of their 
conclusions to be carried into effect by their representatives, 
there will be nothing but agitation and uncertainty, confusion 
and distress, in the commerce and trade of the country. 

I shall now confine myself to a few remarks on the bill before 
UB, and not detain the Senate longer than will be strictly neces- 
sary to give a plain statement of my opinion. 

This measure is proposed in order to provide for the wants of 


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the government. I agree that this is a necessary object; but 
the question is, whether this bill is the proper mode of making 
such a provision. I do not think it is, though others may think 
differently. If this is indeed the best mode, I should wish to 
see it carried into execution ; for relief is wanted, both by the 
treasury and by the country, but first and chiefly by the country. 
I do not say that, by the law providing for this deposit with 
the States of the surplus revenue, the States have any fixed 
right to it I prefer to put the matter entirely on the footing of 
convenience and expediency; and when it is considered what 
expectations have been raised, that this money has even been 
abready disposed of in advance by the several States for diff5?r- 
ent purposes, such as internal improvements, education, and oth- 
er great objects, it becomes a question of expediency whether it 
would not be better to supply the wants of the treasury by other 

Another consideration of great importance in my view is this. 
There are already many disturbing causes in operation, agitating 
society in all the various ramifications of business and com- 
merce. Now I would ask. Sir, is it advisable, is it wise, is it 
even politic, to introduce, at such a time as this, another great 
disturbing cause, producing a reversed action, altering the des- 
tiny of this money, overthrowing contracts now entered into, 
disappointing expectations raised, disturbing, unsettling, and de- 
ranging still more the already deranged business transactions of 
the whole country ? I would ask, is it worth while to do this ? 
1 think not 

We are to consider that this money, according to the provis- 
ions of the existing law, is to go equally among all the States, 
and among all the people ; and the wants of the treasury must 
be supplied, if supplies be necessary, equally by all the people. 
It is not a question, therefore, whether some shall have money, 
and others shall make good the deficiency. All partake in the 
distribution, and all will contribute to the supply. So that it is 
a mere question of convenience, and in my opinion it is decid- 
eily most convenient, on all accounts, that this instalment should 
follow its present destination, and the necessities of the treasury 
be provided for by other means. 

Again, if. you pass this bill, what is it? It is mere brutum 
falmen; of itself it is incapable of producing any good. All 


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admit there is no money ; therefore the bill will give no relief 
to the treasury. This bill, Mr. President, will not produce to 
the Secretary one dollar ; he acknowledges himself, that at all 
events it will not produce him many, for he says he wants other 
aid, and he has applied to Congress for an issue of some mil- 
lions in treasury-notes. He gets the money, therefore, just as 
well without this bill as with it The bill itself, then, is unneces- 
sary, depriving the States of a sum which the Secretary cannot 
avail himself of, and which sum, notwithstanding this bill, he 
proposes to supply by an issue of government notes. This he 
calls collateral aid to the measure of postponement; but it evi- 
dently reverses the order of things, for the treasury-notes are his 
main reliance. To them only he looks for immediate relief; and 
this instalment now to be withheld is (as a productive source of 
revenue) only subsequent and collateral to the issue of the notes. 

But now. Sir, what sort of notes does the Secretary propose 
to issue? He proposes to issue treasury-notes of small denomi- 
nations, down even as low as twenty dollars, not bearing inter- 
est, and redeemable at no fixed period ; they are to be received 
in debts due to government, but are not otherwise to be paid 
until, at some indefinite time, there shall be a certain surplus in 
the treasury beyond what the Secretary may think its wants re- 
quire. Now, Sir, this is plain, authentic, statutable paper mon- 
ey; it is exactly a new emission of old Continental. If the 
genius of the old Confederation were now to rise up in the midst 
of us, he could not furnish us, from the abundant stores of his 
recollection, with a more perfect model of paper money. It car- 
ries no interest ; it has no fixed time of payment ; it is to circu- 
late as currency ; and it is to circulate on the credit of govern- 
ment alone, with no fixed period of redemption ! If this be not 
paper money, pray. Sir, what is it ? And, Sir, who expected 
this? Who expected that, in the fifth year of the experiment for 
reforming the currency^ and bringing it to an absolute gold and 
silver circulation, the Treasury Department would be found rec- 
ommending to us a regular emission of PAPER MONEY? 
This, Sir, is quite new in the history of this government; it be- 
longs to that of the Confederation, which has passed away. 

Since 1789, although we had issued treasury-notes on sundry 
occasions, we had issued none like these ; that, is to say, we 
had issued none not bearing interest, intended for circulation, 


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and with no fixed mode of redemption. I am glad, however, 
Mr. President, that the committee have not adopted the Secre- 
tary's recommendation, and that they have recommended the 
issue of treasury-notes of a description more conformable to the 
practice of the government. 

I think, Sir, there are ways by which the deposits with the 
States might be paid by the funds in the banks. There are 
large sums on deposit in some of the States, and an arrange- 
ment might be made for the States to receive the notes of their 
own banks in payment of this instalment, while the treasury is 
at the same time relieved by its own measure, and all the incon- 
venience, disappointment, and disturbance which this bill will 
necessarily create would be avoided. At any rate, the payment 
of this deposit could do no more than in some measure to in- 
crease the amount of treasury-notes necessary to be issued ; it is 
a question of quantity merely. Much of the instalment, I be- 
lieve, might be paid, by judicious arrangements, out of those 
funds now in the banks, which the Secretary cannot use for 
other purposes, so that the whole might be provided for by no 
great augmentation of the proposed amount of treasury-notes. 
I am, therefore, of opinion that this instalment should not be 
withheld ; — 1st Because the withholding of it will produce great 
inconvenience to the States and to the people ; 2d. Because pro- 
vision may be made for paying it without any large addition to 
the sum which it is proposed to raise, and which, at all events, 
must be raised for the uses of the treasury. 

In relation to the general subjects of the message, there is one 
thing which I intended to have said, but have omitted. It is 
this. We have seen the declaration of the President^ in which 
he says that he refrains from suggesting any specific plan for the 
regulation of the exchanges of the country, and for relieving 
mercantile embarrassments, or for interfering with the ordinary 
operation of foreign or domestic commerce ; and that he does 
this from a conviction that such measures are not within the 
constitutional province of the general government And yet he 
has made a recommendation to Congress which appears to me 
to be very remarkable ; and it is of a measure which he thinks 
may prove a salutary remedy against a depreciated paper cur- 
rency. This measure is neither more nor less than a bankrupt 
law against corporations and other bankers. 


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Now, Mr. President, it is certainly trae that the Ck)nstitution 
authorizes Congress to establish uniform rules on the subject of 
bankruptcies ; but it is equally true, and abundantly manifest, 
that this power was not granted with any reference to currency 
questions. It is a general power, a power to make uniform rules 
on the subject How is it possible that such a power can be 
fairly exercised by seizing on corporations and bankers, but ex- 
cluding all the other usual subjects of bankrupt laws ? Besides, 
do such laws ordinarily extend to corporations at all ? But sup- 
pose they might be so extended by a bankrupt law enacted 
for the usual purposes contemplated by such laws, how can a 
law be defended which embraces them and bankers alone ? I 
should like to hear what the learned gentleman at the head of 
the Judiciary Committee, to whom the subject is referred, has to 
say upon it. 

How does the President's suggestion conform to his notions 
of the Constitution ? The object of bankrupt laws. Sir, has no 
relation to currency. It is simply to distribute the effects of in- 
solvent debtors among their creditors ; and I must say, it strikes 
me that it would be a great perversion of the power conferred on 
Congress to exercise it upon corporations and bankers, A^ith the 
leading and primary object of remedying a depreciated paper 

And this appears the more extraordinary, inasmuch as the 
President is of opinion that the general subject of the currency 
is not within our province. Bankruptcy, in its common and just 
meaning, is within our province. Currency, says the message, 
is not But we have a bankruptcy power in the Constitution, 
and we will use this power, not for bankruptcy, indeed, but for 
currency. This, I confess. Sir, appears to me to be the short 
statement of the matter. I would not do the message or its 
author any intentional injustice, nor create any apparent, where 
there was not a real, inconsistency ; but I declare, in all sincer- 
ity, that I cannot reconcile the proposed use of the bankrupt 
power with those opinions of the message which respect the 
authority of Congress over the currency of the country. 

Mr. Wright of New York having made some remarks, Mr. Webster 
said in reply : — 

If the act of 1815 authorized the issuing of treasury-notes, no 

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drcnlation ever took place of such notes as the Secretary now 
recommends. All treasury-notes went on the ground of a tem- 
porary loan to the government, to be paid or funded as soon as 
the ta"easury would allow. ' 

The member from New York has said that the question before 
the Senate is a simple proposition whether they should borrow 
money to be safely kept with the States. By him and by oth- 
ers it has also been represented as a question whether they should 
borrow money to give away. Nobody, certainly, would borrow 
money merely to give away, or deposit for safe-keeping. But I 
will put it to the honorable member, if any government had 
made a contract, or excited an expectation, that a deposit would 
be made, and the other party had acted on the faith of this as- 
surance, and had nearly completed their arrangements, whether 
it ought not to supply the means, even if it did not at the time 
possess them. And suppose it was the promise of a gift, instead 
of a deposit, might it not be found more just to borrow than to 
defeat the expectation on which the other party had acted? 
What is the object of this bill ? It is not to repeal, but to post- 
pone what is hereafter to be fulfilled. Such being the case, it is 
doubtful whether the funds in question could ever be transferred 
to the States with more convenience than they can now be 
transferred from the banks. 

During the late war there was great want of money, and a 
great disposition to use treasury-notes, and pass them as a me- 
dium of payment to the public creditors. But in the difficulties 
and embarrassments of a foreign war, things were done which, 
in a day of peace and abundance, we should be slow to do. 
One thing which we should be slow to do is, to propose by law 
that we should pay the public creditors any thing less in value 
than gold and silver, on the condition that the creditors will vol- 
untarily take it. The Secretary has said that the protested 
checks now in circulation were only a little depreciated below 
the value of specie, and argues that these notes will be as good 
at least as the protested checks. But suppose these notes should 
be depreciated only a little below the value of silver ; is it pro- 
posed that they should be offered to the public creditors, if they 
will receive them? What is meant when it is said that the 
officers of the government may pay its creditors in treasury- 
notes, if they will voluntarily receive them ? What is the alter- 


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native ? Are the gold and silver held in one hand, and the treas- 
ury-notes in the other? On the contrary, is it not a sort of 
forced payment, not as good as is required by law? All know 
there is no choice. The men who labor in the streets of this 
city, on the public works, or who furnish the bricks and stones, 
will come for their pay, and they will be offered treasury-notes, 
and asked if they are willing to take them. But will there be 
gold and silver in the other hand? No; nothing but the treas- 
ury-notes, and they will be asked if they were willing to take 
them ; and then, if they should take them, that is called volun- 
tary reception. 

Now, it is evident that in such a case the only choice is be- 
tween treasury-notes, on the one hand, and something worse, or 
nothing at all, on the other. No man can be supposed to receive 
voluntarily any thing of less value than that which he is legally 
entitled to. The reception of such inferior medium is always 
the result of force or necessity, either greater or smaller. Neither 
the justice nor the dignity of the government can ever allow of 
such a course. If treasury-notes are offered to the public cred- 
itor, there ought to be an actual choice afforded between them 
and the specie. And especially, with what an aspect could this 
government offer such payment, at the very moment when, with 
a stern countenance and an iron hand, it is demanding of its cred- 
itors metallic money for every dollar of its dues ? Is it not now 
the law, that no officer of the government shall offer the public 
creditor any thing less in value than specie ? I am of opinion, 
therefore, that the notes proposed by the committee are better 
than those recommended by the Secretary. I am in favor of 
that system which will not force the public creditor to make a 
selection between paper and nothing. 

In reply to Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Webster, having obtained and exam- 
ined the act of 1815, said : — 

The honorable member from Pennsylvania has been kind 
enough to say, that I do not often get into difficulties in debate, 
and that when I do, I generally extricate myself better than I 
have done on the present occasion. He partakes in the supposed 
triumph of his friend from New York,* in having proved me 

* Mr. Wright. 


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incorrect when I said that this government had never issued such 
paper money as the Secretary has now recommended. Now, 
Sir, although I am pleased to see the happiness which the gen- 
tleman enjoys, yet I believe I must dash it a little. Most assured- 
ly, Sir, it authorizes no such paper as is now proposed. I was 
persuaded it could not, as I have a pretty good recollection of the 
proceedings of Congress on such subjects at that time. 

The law of 1815 authorized the issue of two classes of treas- 
ury-notes ; — Ist Such as bore no interest, but which, the very 
hour they were issued, might be funded in a seven per cent, 
stock, to be redeemed like other stocks of the government; 
2d. Treasury-notes bearing an interest of five and two fifths pejr 
cent., capable of being funded in like manner in a six per cent 
stock. These stocks were to be issued on application by any 
commissioner of the revenue in any State. Now, what compar- 
ison is there between either of these classes of treasury-notes 
and those recommended by the Secretary, which bear no inter- 
est, and for which no time of redemption is provided ? 

I aflSrm again, therefore. Sir, all that I have said, namely, that 
the notes recommended by the treasury are regular paper issues, 
Kke the old emissions of Congress and the States before the 
adoption of the present Constitution, and that no precedent has 
been found for them, and I am sure none can be found, in the 
practice of this government 


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In the month of May, 1837, an almost simultaneous suspension of 
specie payments on the part of the banks took place throughout the 
country. The public funds having, since their removal from the Bank of 
the United States, in 1833, been kept on deposit with certain State banks 
selected for that purpose, the general suspension of specie payments by 
all the banks was productive of immediate embarrassment to the treas- 
ury. A proclamation was forthwith issued by the President, calling an 
extra session of Congress for the 4th of September next following. 

On the meeting of Congress, the disordered state of the public finan- 
ces was laid before the two houses in the message of the President and 
the report of the Secretary of the Treasury. In accordance with their 
recommendation, a law was passed to suspend the payment to the States 
of the fourth instalment of the surplus revenue. This measure forms the 
subject of the preceding speech. In further conformity to the executive 
recommendation, a bill was introduced into the Senate, by Mr. Wright 
of New York, from the Committee on Finance, " imposing additional 
duties as depositaries in certain cases, on public officers," to which bill 
an amendment was moved by Mr. Calhoun, providing for the repeal, to 
take effect gradually, of the resolution of the 30th April, 1816, so far 
as that resolution authorized the receipt of notes of specie-paying banks 
in payment of public dues. This amendment and the bill as amended 
passed the Senate, but failed in the House of Representatives. During 
the pendency of the amendment, Mr. Webster addressed the Senate on 
the general question raised by the bill and amendment, as follows : — 

Mr. President, — I am opposed to the doctrines of the mes- 
sage, to the bill, and to the amendment of the member from 

* A Speech delivered in the Senate of the United States, on the 28th of Sep- 
tember, 1837, on the Currency, and on the new Plan for collecting and keeping 
the Public Moneys. 


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South Carolina.* In all these, I see nothing for the relief of the 
country; but I do see, as I think, a question involved, the im- 
portance of which transcends all the interest of the present occa- 
sion. It is my purpose to state that question ; to present it, as 
well to the country as to the Senate ; to show the length and 
breadth of it, as a question of practical politics, and in its beat- 
ing dn the powers of the government; to exhibit its impot- 
tance, and to express my own opinions in regard to it A short 
recital of events and occurrences will show how this question 
has arisen. 

The government of the United States corhpleted the forty- 
eighth year of its existence, under the present Constitution, on 
the third day of March last During this whole period, it has 
felt itself bound to take proper care of the currency of the conn- 
try; and no administration has admitted this obligation more 
dearly or more frequently than the last Fdr the fulfilment of 
this acknowledged duty, as well as to accomplish other useful 
purposes, a national bank has been maintained for forty out of 
these forty-eight years. Two institutions of this kind have been 
created by law ; one commencing in 1791, and being limited to 
twenty years, expiring in 1811 ; the other commencing in 1816, 
with a like term of duration, and ending, therefore, in 1836. 
Both these institutions, each in its time, accomplished their pur- 
pose, so far as currency was concerned, to the general satisfac- 
tion of the country. Before the last bank expired, it had tBe 
misfortune to incur the enmity of the late administratiori. ' 1 
need not, at present, speak of the causes of this hostility. Mjr 
purpose only requires a statement of that fact, as an important 
one in the chain of occurrences. The late President's f dissatis- 
faction with the bank was intimated in his Rtst annual message, 
that is to say, in 1829. But the bank stood very well with the 
country, the President's known and growing hostility notwith- 
standing ; and in 1832, four years before its charter was to ex- 
pire, both houses of Congress passed a bill for its continuance, 
there being in its favot a large majority of the Senate, and a 
larger majority of the llouse of Representatives. The bill, how- 
ever, was negatived by the President In 1833, by an order of 
the President, the public moneys were removed froih the custody 

* Mr. Calhoon. t C^eial Jackson. 

▼OL, IV. 28 


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of the bank, and were deposited with certain selected State banks. 
This removal was accompanied with the most confident declara- 
tions and assurances, put forth in every form, by the President 
and the Secretary of the Treasury, that these State banks would 
not only prove safe depositaries of the public money, but that 
they would also furnish the country with as good a currency 
as it ever had enjoyed, and probably a better ; and would also 
accomplish all that could be wished in regard to domestic ex- 
changes. The substitution of State banks for a national insti- 
tution, for the discharge of these duties, was that operation 
which has become known, and is likely to be long remem- 
bered, as the "Experiment" 

For some years, all was said to go on extremely well, al- 
though it seemed plain enough to a great part of the commu- 
nity that the system was radically vicious ; that its operations 
were all inconvenient, clumsy, and wholly inadequate to the 
proposed ends; and that, sooner or later, there must be an 
explosion. The administration, however, adhered to its experi- 
ment. The more it was complained of by the people, the 
louder it was praised by the administration. Its commendation 
was one of the standing topics of all official communications ; 
and in his last message, in December, 1836, the late President 
was more than usually emphatic upon the great success of his 
attempts to improve the currency, and the happy results of the 
experiment upon the important business of exchange. 

But a reverse was at hand. The ripening glories of the ex- 
periment were soon to meet a dreadful blighting. In the early 
part of May last, these banks all stopped payment. This 
event, of course, produced great distress in the countary, and 
it produced also singular embarrassment to the administration. 
The present administration was then only two months old ; 
but it had ahready become formally pledged to maintain the pol- 
icy of that which had gone before it The President* had 
avowed his purpose of treading in the footsteps of his prede- 
cessor. Here, then, was difficulty. Here was a political knot, 
to be either untied or cut The experiment had failed, and 
failed, as it was thought, so utterly and hopelessly that it could 
not be tried again. 

• Mr. Van Daren. 


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What, then, was to be done ? Coramitted against a Bank of 
tbe United States in the strongest manner, and the substitute, 
fifora which so much was expected, having disappointed all 
hopes, what was the administration to do ? Two distinct classes 
of duties had been performed, in times past, by the Bank of the 
United States ; one more immediately to the government, the 
other to the community. The first was the safe-keeping and 
the transfer, when required, of the public moneys ; the other, the 
supplying of a sound and convenient paper currency, of equal 
credit all over the country, and everywhere equivalent to specie, 
and the giving of most important facilities to the operations of 
exchange. These objects were highly important, and their per- 
fect accomplishment by the " experiment " had been promised, 
from the first. The State banks, it was declared, could perform 
all these duties, and should perform them. But the "experi- 
ment" came to a dishonored end in the early part of last May. 
The deposit banks, with the others, stopped payment They 
could not render back the deposits ; and so far from being able 
to furnish a general currency, or to assist exchanges, (purposes, 
indeed, which they never had fulfilled with any success,) their 
paper became immediately depreciated, even in its local circula- 
tion. What course, then, was the administration now to adopt? 
Why, Sir, it is plain that it had but one alternative. It must 
either return to the former practice of the government, take the 
currency into its own hands, and maintain it, as well as provide 
for the safe-keeping of the public money by some institution of 
its own ; or else, adopting some new mode of merely keeping 
the public money, it must abandon all further care over cur* 
tency and exchange. One of these courses became inevitable. 
The administration had no other choice. The State banks 
could be no longer tried, with the opinion which the administra- 
tion now entertained of them ; and how else could any thing be 
done to maintain the currency ? In no way, but by the estab- 
lishment of a national institution. 

There was no escape from this dilemma. One course was, to 
go back to that which the party had so much condemned ; the 
other, to give up the whole duty, and leave the currency to its 
fate. Between these two, the administration found itself abso- 
lutely obliged to decide ; and it has decided, and decided boldly. 
It has decided to surrender the duty, and abandon the Consti- 


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tation. That decision is before us, in the message, and in the 
measures now under consideration. The choice has been made ; 
and that choice, in my opinion, raises a question of the utmost 
importance to the people of this country, both for the present 
f^nd all future time. That question is, Whether Congress 


Mr. President, the honorable member from South Carolina re- 
marked, the other day, with great frankness and good humor, 
that, in the political classifications of the times, he desired to be 
considered as nothing but an honest nuUifier. That, he said, 
was his character. I believe, Sir, the country will readily con- 
cede that character to the honorable gentleman. For one, cer- 
tainly, I am willing to say that I believe him a very honest and 
a very sincere nullifier, using the term in the same sense ia 
which he used it himself, and in which he meant to apply it to 
himself. And I am very much afraid. Sir, that (whatever he 
may think of it himself) it has been under the influence of those 
sentiments which belong to his character as a nullifler, that he 
has so readily and so zealously embraced the doctrines of the 
President's message. In my opinion, the message, the bill be- 
fore us, and the honorable member's amendment form, together, 
a system, a code of practical politics, the direct tendency of 
which is to nullify and expunge, or perhaps, more correctly 
speaking, by a united an^ mixed process of nullification and ex- 
punging, to abolish, a highly important and useful power of the 
government It strikes down the principle upon which the gov- 
ernment has been administered in regard to the subject of the 
currency, through its whole history ; and it seeks to obliterate, or 
to draw black lines around, that part of the Ck)nstitution on 
which this principle of administration has rested. The system 
I^oposed, in my opinion, is not only anti-commercial, but anti- 
constitutional also, and anti-union, in a high degree. 

You will say, Sir, that this is a strong way of stating an 
opinion. It is so, I mean to state the opinion in the strongest 
manner. I do not wish, indeed, at every turn, to say, of meas- 
ures which I oppose, that they either violate or surrender the 
(institution. But when in all soberness and candor I do so 
think, in all soberness and candor I must so speak; and whether 


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the opinion which I have now expressed be trae, let the sequel 

Now, Sir, Congress has been called together in a moment of 
great difficulty. The characteristic of the crisis is commercial 
distress. We are not suffering from war, or pestilence, or fam- 
ine ; and it is alleged by the President and Secretary that there 
is no want of revenue. Our means, it is averred, are abundant 
And yet the government is in distress, and the country is in dis- 
tress ; and Congress is assembled, by a call of the President, 
to provide relief. The immediate and direct cause of all is de- 
rangement of the currency and the exchanges ; commercial credit 
is gone, and property no longer answers the common ends and 
purposes of property. Government cannot use its own means, 
and individuals are alike unable to command their own re- 
sources. The operations both of government and people are 
obstructed ; and they are obstructed because the money of the 
country, the great instrument of commerce and exchange, has 
become disordered and useless. The government has funds, 
that is to say, it has credits in the banks, but it cannot turn 
these credits into cash ; and individual citizens are as bad off as 
government. The government is a great creditor and a great 
debtor. It collects and it disburses large sums. In the loss, 
therefore, of a proper medium of payment and receipt, govern- 
ment is a sufferer. But the people are sufferers from the same 
cause ; and inasmuch as the whole amount of payments and 
receipts by the people, in their individual transactions, is many 
times greater than the amount of payments and receipts by gov- 
ernment, the aggregate of evil suffered by the people is also 
many times greater than that suffered by government Individ- 
uals have means as ample, in proportion to their wants, as gov- 
ernment ; but they share with government the common calamity 
arising from the overthrow of the currency. The honorable 
member from Mississippi * has stated, or has quoted the state- 
ment from others, that while the payments and receipts of gov- 
ernment are twenty millions a year, the payments and receipts 
of individuals are two or three hundred millions. He has, I 
think, underrated the amount of individual payments and re- 
ceipts. But even if he has not, the statement shows how small 

• Mr. Walker. 


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a part of the whole evil falls on government The great burden 
of suffering is on the people. 

Now, Sir, when we look at ihe message, the bill, and the pro- 
posed amendment, their single, exclusive, and undivided object 
i§ found to be relief to the government. Not one single provis- 
ion is adopted, or recommended, with direct reference to the 
relief of the people. They all speak of revenue, of finance, of 
duties and customs, of taxes and collections; and the evils 
which the people suffer by the derangement of the currency and 
the exchanges, and the breaking up of commercial credit, instead 
of being put forth as prominent and leading objects of regard, 
are dbmissed with a slight intimation, here and there, that, in 
providing for the superior and paramount interests of govenr- 
ment, some incidental or collateral benefits may, perhaps, accrue 
to the community. But is government, I ask, to care for noth- 
ing but itself? Is self-preservation the great end of govern- 
ment ? Has it no trust powers ? Does it owe no duties, but to 
itself? If it keeps itself in being, does it fulfil all the objects of 
its creation ? I think not. I think government exists, not for 
its own ends, but for the public utility. It is an agency estab- 
lished to promote the common good, by common counsels ; its 
chief duties are to the people ; and it seems to me strange and 
preposterous, in a moment of great and general distress, that 
government should confine all its deliberations to the single 
object of its own revenues, its own convenience, its own ua- 
disturbed administration. 

I cannot say. Sir, that I was surprised to see this general 
character impressed on the face of the message. I confess it 
appeared to me, when the banks stopped payment, that the ad- 
ministration had come to a pass in which it was unavoidable 
that it should take some such course. But that necessity was 
imposed, not by the nature of the crisis, but by its own commit- 
ment to the line of politics which the preceding administration 
had adopted, and which it had pledged itself to pursue. It 
withdraws its care from the currency, because it has left itself 
no means of perfprming its own duties, connected with that sub- 
ject It has, v<^luntarily and on calculation, discarded and re- 
i^pupccd tie policy which has been approved for half a century, 
because it could not return to that policy without admitting its 
own inconsistency and violating its party pledges. This is the 
truth of the whole matter. 


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Now, Sir, my present purpose is chiefly to maintain two 
propositions ; — 

L Tbi^t a is the constitutional duty of this government to see 
tfaat a proper currency, suitable to the circumstances of the 
times, and to the wants of trade and business, as well as to the 
payment of debts due to government, be maintained and pre* 
served ; a currency of general credit, and capable of aiding the 
operations of exchange, so far as those operations may be con- 
ducted by means of the circulating medium ; and that there are 
duties, therefore, devolving on Congress, in relation to currency, 
beyond the mere regulation of the gold and silver coins : 

II. That the message, the bill, and the proposed amendment^ 
all, in effect, deny any such duty, disclaim all such power, and 
oonfine the constitutional obligation of government to the mere 
legulation of the coin, and the care of its own revenues. 

I have well weighed, Mr. President, and fully considered, the 
first of these propositions ; to wit, that which respects the duty 
of this govern mejit in regard to the currency. I mean to stand 
by it It expresses, in my judgment, a principle fully sustained 
by the Constitution, and by the usage of the government, and 
which is of the highest practical importance. With this propo- 
sition, or this principle, I am willing to stand connected, and to 
share in the judgment which the community shall ultimately 
pronounce upon it. If the country shall sustain it, and be ready 
in due time to carry it into effect by such means and instru- 
ments as the general opinion shall think best to adopt, I sha^ 
cooperate, cheerfully, in any such undertaking ; and shall look 
again, with confidence, to prosperity in this branch of our na- 
tional concerns. On the other hand, if the country shall reject 
ibis proposition, and act on th^t rejection ; if it shall decide th^t 
Congress has no power, and is under no duty, in relation to the 
currency, beyond the mere regulation of the coins ; then, upon 
that construction of the powers and duties of Congress, I am 
willing to acknowledge that I do not feel myself competent to 
render any substantial service to the public counsels on these 
great interests. I admit, at once, that if the currency is not to 
be preserved by the government of the United States, I know 
not how it is to be guarded against constantly occurring dispr^ 
ders and derangements. 

Before entering into the discu^ion of the grounds of thiv 


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proposition, however, allow me. Sir, a few words by way of pre- 
liminary explanation. In the first place, I wish it to be ob- 
served, that I am now contending only for the general principle, 
and not insisting either on the constitutionality or expediency 
of any particular means or any particular agent I am not say- 
ing by what instrument or agent Congress ought to perform this 
duty ; I only say it is a duty, which, in some mode and by some 
means. Congress is bound to perform. In the next place, let it 
be remembered that I carry the absolute duty of government in 
regard to exchange no farther than the operations of exchange 
may be performed by currency. No doubt, Sir, a proper institu- 
tion, established by government, might, as heretofore, give other 
facilities to exchange, of great importance and to a very great 
extent. But I intend, on this occasion, to keep clearly within 
the Constitution, and to assign no duty to Congress not plainly 
enjoined by the provisions of that instrument, as fairly inter- 
preted, and as heretofore understood. 

The President says, it is not the province of government to 
aid individuals in the transfer of their funds otherwise than by 
the use of the post-office; and that it might as justly be called 
on to provide for the transportation of their merchandise. Now, 
I beg leave to say. Sir, with all respect and deference, that funds 
are transferred from individual to individual usually for the 
direct purpose of the payment and receipt of debts ; that pay- 
ment and receipt are duties of currency ; that, in my opinion, 
currency is a thing which government is bound to provide for 
and superintend ; that the case, therefore, has not the slightest 
resemblance to the transportation of merchandise, because the 
transportation of merchandise is carried on by ships and boats, 
by carts and wagons, and not by the use of currency, or any 
ihing else over which government has usually exclusive control. 
Tlfefse things individuals can provide for themselves. But the 
transftSer of funds is done by credit, and must be so done ; and 
some pVoper medium for this transfer it is the duty of govern- 
ment to p*^j"ovide, because it belongs to currency, to money, and 
is therefore i)E;jvond the power of individuals. 

The nature of^ exchange. Sir, is well understood by persons 
engaged in commfe* o<»e ; but as its operations are a little out of 
the sight of other clasi^^ses of the community, although they have 
all a deep and pernJ anent interest in the subject, I may be 


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paidoned for a word or two of general explanation. I speak of 
domestic exchanges only. We mean, then, by exchange, this 
same transfer of funds. We mean the making of payment in a 
distant place, or the receiving of payment from a distant place, 
by some mode of paper credits. If done by draft, order, or bill 
of exchange, that is one form ; if done by the transmission of 
bank-notes, through the post-office or otherwise, that is another 
form. In each, credit is used ; in the first, the credit of the par- 
ties whose names are on the bill or draft ; in the last, the credit 
of the bank. Every man. Sir, who looks over this vast country, 
and contemplates the commercial connection of its various parts, 
must see the great importance that this exchange should be 
cheap and easy. To the producer and to the consumer, to the 
manufacturer and the planter, to the merchant, to all, in all class- 
es, this is a matter of moment We may see an instance in the 
common articles of manufacture produced in the North and sent 
to the South and West for sale and consumption. Hats, shoes, 
furniture, carriages, domestic hardware, and various other ar- 
ticles, the produce of those manufactures, and of employments 
carried on without the aid of large capital, constitute a large 
part of this trade, as well as the fabrics of cotton and wool. 
Now, a state of exchange which shall enable the producers to 
receive payment regularly, and without loss, is indispensable to 
any useful prosecution of this intercourse. Derangement of cur- 
rency and exchange is ruinous. The notes of local banks will 
not answer the purpose of remittance ; and if bills of exchange 
cannot be had, or can be had only at a high rate, how is pay- 
nient to be received, or to be received without great loss ? This 
evil was severely felt, even before the suspension of specie pay- 
ment by the banks ; and it will always be felt, more or less, till 
there is ^ currency of general credit and circulation through the 
country. But when the banks suspended, it became over- 
whelming. All gentlemen in other parts of the country having 
Northern acquaintance must know the existence of this evil. I 
have heard it said that the hitherto prosperous and flourishing 
town of Newark has already lost a considerable part of its popu- 
lation by the breaking up of its business in consequence of these 
commercial embarrassments. And in cases in which business 
^ not wholly broken up, if five or six per cent or more is to 
^ paid for exchange, it by so much enhances the cost to the 


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consumer, or takes away his profit from the producer. I have 
mentioned these articles of common product of Northern labor ; 
but the same evil exists in all the sales of imported goods ; and 
it must exist, also, in the South, in the operations connected 
with its great staples. The South must have, and has, constant 
occasion for '•emittance by exchange ; and no part of the coun- 
try is likely to suffer more severely by its derangement In 
short, there can be no satisfactory state of internal trade, when 
there is neither cheapness, nor promptness, nor regularity, nor 
security, in the domestic exchanges. 

I say again. Sir, that I do not hold government bound to pro- 
vide bills of exchange for purchase and sale. Nobody thinks of 
such a thing. If any institution established by government can 
do this, as might be the case, and has been the case, so much 
the better. But the positive obligation of government I am 
content to limit to currency, and, so far as exchange is con- 
cerned, to the aid which may be afforded to exchange by cur- 
rency. I have been informed, that, a few years ago, before the 
charter of the late bank expired, at those seasons of the year 
when Southern and Western merchants usually visit the North- 
ern cities to make purchases, or make payment of existing lia- 
bilities, that bank redeemed its notes to the amount of fifty or 
even a hundred thousand dollars a day. These notes, having 
been issued in the West, were brought over the mountains, as 
funds to be used in the Eastern cities. This was exchange; 
and it was exchange through the medium of currency ; it was 
perfectly safe, and it cost nothing. This fact illustrates the im- 
portance of a currency of universal credit to the business of 

Having made these remarks, for the purpose of explaining ex- 
change, and showing its connection with currency, I proceed to 
discuss the general propositions. 

Is it the duty, then, of this government, to see that a currency 
is maintained, suited to the circumstances of the times, and to 
the uses of trade and commerce ? 

I need not. Sir, on this occasion, enter historically into the 
well-known causes which led to the adoption of the present 
Constitution. Those causes are familiar to all public men ; and 
among them, certainly, was this very matter of giving credit and 
uniformity to the money system of the country. The States 


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possessed no system of money and circulation ; and that was 
among the causes of the stagnation of commerce. Indeed, all 
commercial affairs were in a disjointed, deranged, and miserable 
state. The restoration of commerce, the object of giving it uni- 
formity, credit, and national character, were among the first in- 
centives to a more perfect union of the States. We all know 
that the meeting at Annapolis, in 1786, sprang from a desire to 
attempt something which would give uniformity to the commer- 
cial operations of the several States ; and that in and with this 
meeting arose the proposition for a general convention, to con- 
sider of a new constitution of government Everywhere, State 
currencies were depreciated, and Continental money was depre- 
dated also. Debts could not be paid, and there was no value 
to property. From the close of the war to the time of the adop- 
tion of this Constitution, as I verily believe, the people suffered 
as much, except in the loss of life, from the disordered state of the 
currency and the prostration of commerce and business, as they 
suffered during the war. All our history shows the disasters 
and afflictions which sprang from these sources ; and it would be 
waste of time to go into a detailed recital of them. For the 
remedy of these evils, as one of its great objects, and as great as 
any one, the Constitution was formed and adopted. 

Now, Sir, by this Constitution, Congress is authorized to 
"coin money, to regulate the value thereof, and of foreign 
coins " ; and all the States are prohibited from coining money, 
and from making any thing but gold and silver coins a tender 
in payment of debts. Suppose the Constitution had stopped 
here, it would still have established the all-important point of a 
uniform money system. By this provision Congress is to furnish 
coin, or regulate coin, for all the States. There is to be but one 
money-standard for the country. And the standard of value to 
be established by Congress is to be a currency, and not bullion 
merely ; because we find it is to be coin ; that is, it is to be one 
or the other of the precious metals, bearing an authentic stamp 
of value, and passing therefore by tale. That is to be the stand- 
ard of value. A standard of value, therefore, and a money for 
circulation, were thus expressly provided for. And if nothing 
else had been done, would it not have been a reasonable and 
necessary inference from this power, that Congress had authority 
to regulate, and must regulate and control, any and all paper, 


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which either States or individuals might desire to put into cir- 
culation, purporting to represent this coin, and to take its place, 
in the uses of trade and commerce ? It is very evident that the 
Constitution intended something more than to provide a medium 
for the payment of debts to government. The object was a uni- 
form currency for the use of the whole people, in all the transac- 
tions of life ; and it was manifestly the intent of the Constitu- 
tion, that the power to maintain such a currency should be given 
to Congress. But it would make the system incongfuous and 
incomplete; it would be denying to Congress the means neces- 
sary to accomplish dnds which were manifestly intended; it 
would render the whole provision in a great measure nugatory, 
if, when Congress had established a coin for currency and circu- 
lation, it should have no power to maintain it as an actual cir- 
culation, nor to regulate or control paper emissions designed to 
occupy its place, and perform the same functions that it would 
on the coinage power alone. On a fair, and just, and reason- 
able inference from it, therefore, I should be of opinion that Con- 
gress was authorized, and was bound, to protect the community 
against all evils which might threaten it from a deluge of cur- 
rency of another kind, filling up, in point of fact, all the chan- 
nels of circulation. And this opinion is not new. It has often 
been expressed before, and was cogently urged by Mr. Dallas, 
the Secretary of the Treasury, in his report in 1816. He says, 
" Whenever the emergency occurs that demands a change of 
system, it seems necessarily to follow, that the authority which 
^as alone competent to establish the national coin is alone 
competent to create a national substitute." 

But the Constitution does not stop with this grant of the coin- 
age power to Congress. It expressly prohibits the States from 
issuing bills of credit. What a bill of credit is there can be no 
difficulty in understanding, by any one acquainted with the his- 
tory of the country. They had been issued, at different times, 
and in various forms, by the State governments. The object of 
them was to create a paper circulation ; and any paper issued 
on the credit of the State, and intended for circulation from hand 
to hand, is a bill of credit, whether made a tender for debts or 
not, or whether carrying interest or not Is it issued with Intent 
that it shall circulate as money, from hand to hand, and vrith 
intent that it shall so circulate on the credit of the StiCte ? If it 


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is, it is a bill of credit The States, therefore, are prohibited from 
asidng paper for drculatioa, on their own credit; and this pro- 
vision furnishes additional and strong proof, that all circulation, 
whether of coin or paper, was intended to be subject to the reg- 
ulation fiind control of Congress. Indeed, the very object of 
establishing one commerce for all the States, and one money 
for all the States, would otherwise be liable to be completely 
defeatecL It has been supposed, nevertheless, that this prohibi- 
tion on the States has not restrained them from granting to indi- 
viduals, or to private corporations, the power of issuing notes 
for circulation on their own credit This power has long been 
exercised, and is admitted to exist But could it be reasonably 
maintained, looking only to these two provisions, (that is to say, 
to the coinage power, which is vested exclusively in Congress, 
and to the prohibition on the States against issuing their own 
paper for circulation,) that Congress could not protect its own 
power, and secure to the people the full benefits intended by and 
for them against evils and mischiefs, if they should arise, or 
threaten to arise, not from paper issued by States, but from paper 
issued by individuals or private corporations ? If this be so, then 
the coinage power evidently fails of a great part of its intended 
tfect ; and the evils intended to be prevented by the prohibi- 
tions on the States may all arise, and become irresistible and 
overwhelming in another form. 

But the message intimates a doubt whether this power over 
the coin was given to Congress to preserve the people from the 
evils of paper money, or only given to protect the government 
itself. I cannot but think this very remarkable and very strange. 
The language of the Pr^ident is, " There can be no doubt that 
those who framed and adopted the Constitution, having in im- 
mediate view the depreciated paper of the Confederacy, of which 
five hundred dollars in paper were at times equal to only one 
dollar in coin, intended to prevent the recurrence of similar evils, 
so far at least as related to the transactions of the new govern- 
ment^' Where is the foundation for the quaUfication here ex- 
pressed ? On what clause, ot c©»stniction of any clause, is it 
founded? Will any gentleman tell me what there is in the 
Constitution which led the President, or which could lead any 
«utn, to doubt whether it was the purpose of that instrument to 
protect the people, as well as the gov^nment, against the over- 

voL. IV. 29 


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whelming evils of paper money ? Is there a word or particle in 
the coinage power, or any other power, which countenances the 
notion that the Constitution intended that there should be one 
money for the government, and another for the people; that 
government should have the means of protecting its own revc* 
nues against depreciated paper, but should be still at liberty to 
suffer all the evils of such paper to fall with full weight upon 
the people ? This is altogether a new doubt It intimates an 
opinion, which, so far as it shall find those who are ready to 
adopt and follow it, will sap and undermine one of the most 
indispensable powers of the government The coinage power 
is given to Congress in general terms ; it is altogether denied to 
the States ; and the States are prohibited from issuing bills of 
credit for any purpose whatever, or of any character whatever. 
Can any man hesitate one moment to say, that these provisions 
are all intended for the general good of the people ? I am there- 
fore surprised at the language of the message in this particular, 
and utterly at a loss to know what should have led to it, except 
the apparent and foregone conclusion and purpose of attempt- 
ing to justify Congress in the course which was about to be 
recommended to it, of abstaining altogether from every endeavor 
to improve or maintain the currency, except so far as the receipts 
and payments of the government itself are concerned. I repeat, 
Sir, that I should be obliged to any friend of the adminis- 
tration, who would suggest to me on what ground this doubt, 
never expressed before, and now so solemnly and gravely inti- 
mated, is supposed to stand. Is it indeed uncertain, is it 
matter of grave and solemn doubt, whether the coinage power 
itself, so fully granted to Congress, and so carefully guarded by 
restraints upon the States, had any further object than to enable 
Congress to furnish a medium in which taxes might be col- 

But this power over the coinage is not the strongest, nor the 
broadest, ground on which to place the duty of Congress. There 
is another power granted to Congress, which seems to me to 
apply to this case directly and irresistibly, and that is the com- 
mercial power. The Constitution declares that Congress shall 
have power to regulate commerce, not only with foreign nations, 
but between the Slates. This is a full and complete grant, and 
must include authority over every thing which is part of com- 


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merce, or essential to commerce. And is not money essential 
to commerce? No man in his senses can deny that; and it is 
equally dear, that whatever paper is put forth, with intent to 
circulate as currency, or to be used as money, immediately 
affects commerce. Bank-notes, in a strict and technical sense, 
are not, indeed, money ; but in a general sense, and often in a 
legal sense, they are money. They are substantially money, 
because they perform the functions of money. They are not 
like bills of exchange or common promissory notes, mere proofs 
or evidences of debt, but are treated as money, in the general 
transactions of society. If receipts be given for them, they are 
given as for money. They pass under a legacy, or other form 
of gift, as money. And this character of bank-notes was as 
well known and understood at the time of the adoption of the 
Constitution as it is now. The law, both of England and 
America, regarded them as money, in the sense above expressed. 
If Congress, then, has power to regulate commerce, it must have 
a control over that money, whatever it may be, by which com- 
merce is actually carried on. Whether that money be coin or 
paper, or however it has acquired the character of money or 
currency, if, in fact, it has become an actual agent or instrument 
in the performance of commercial transactions, it necessarily 
thereby becomes subject to the regulation and control of Con- 
gress. The regulation of money is not so much an inference 
from the commercial power conferred on Congress, as it is a 
part of it Money is one of the things, without which, in mod- 
em times, we can form no practical idea of commerce. It is 
embraced, therefore, necessarily, in the terms of the Constitu- 

But, Sir, as will be seen by the proposition which I have 
stated, I go further ; I insist that the duty of Congress is com- 
mensurate with its power; that it has authority not only to 
regulate and control that which others may put forth as money 
and currency, but that it has the power, and is bound to per- 
form the duty, of seeing that there is established and main- 
tained, at all times, a currency of general credit, equivalent in 
value to specie, adapted to the wants of commerce and the busi- 
ness of the people, and suited to the existing circumstances of 
the country. Such a currency is an instrument of the first 
necessity to commerce, according to the commercial system of 


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the present age ) and without it commerce cannot be conducted 
to full advantage. It is in the power of Congress to furnish it, 
and it is in the power of nobody else. The States cannot sup- 
ply it That resource has often been tried, and has always 
failed. I am no enemy to the State banks ; they may be very 
Useful in their spheres ; but you can no more cause them to per- 
form the duties of a national institution, than you can turn a 
satellite into a primary orb. They cannot maintain a currency 
of equal credit all over the country. It might be tried. Sir, in 
your State of Kentucky, or our State of Massachusetts. We 
may erect banks on all the securities which the wit of man can 
devise ; we may have capital, we may have fiinds, we may have 
bonds and mortgages, we may add the faith of the State, we 
may pile Pelion upon Ossa; they will be State institutions after 
all, and will not be able to support a national circulation. This 
is inherent in the nature of things, and in the sentiments of men. 
It is in vain to argue that it ought not to be so, or to contend 
that one bank may be as safe as another. Experience proves 
that it is so, and we may be assured it will remain so. 

Sir, mine is not the ruthless hand that shall strike at the State 
banks, nor mine the tongue that shall causelessly upbraid them 
with treachery or perfidy. I admit their lawful existence; I 
admit their utility in the circle to which they properly belong. I 
only say, they cannot perform a national part in the operations of 
commerce. A general and universally accredited currency, there- 
fore, is an instrument of commerce, which is necessary to the en- 
joyment of its just advantages, or, in other words, which is essen- 
tial to its beneficial regulation. Congress has power to establish 
it, and no other power can establish it ; and therefore Congress 
is bound to exercise its own power. It is an absurdity, on the 
very face of the proposition, to allege that Congress shall regu- 
late commerce, but shall, nevertheless, abandon to others the 
duty of maintaining and regulating its essential means and 
instruments. We have in actual use a mixed currency; the 
coin circulating under the authority of Congress, the paper 
under the authority of the States. But this paper, though it 
fills so great a portion of all the channels of circulation, is not 
of general and universal credit ; it is made up of various local 
currencies, none of which has the same credit, or the same value, 
in all parts of the country ; and therefore these local currencies 


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answer bnt very loosely and imperfectly the purposes of gen- 
eral currency and of remittance. Now, is it to be contended 
that there is no remedy for this ? Are we to agree, that the 
Constitution, with all its care, circumspection, and wisdom, has, 
nevertheless, left this great interest unprovided for? Is our 
commercial system so lame and impotent ? Are our constitu- 
tional provisions and our political institutions so radically defec- 
tive ? I think not. Sir. They do not deserve this reproach ; and 
I think it may now be easily shown, that, under all administra- 
tions, from General Washington's time down to the 3d of 
March last, the government has felt and acknowledged its obli- 
gation, in regard to the currency, to the full extent in which I 
have stated it, and has constantly endeavored to fulfil that obli- 
gation. Allow me to go back to the beginning, and trace this 
matter down to our times, a little in detail. 

In his first speech to Congress, in 1789, having just then 
assumed his new office. General Washington recommended no 
particular subjects to the consideration of Congress ; but in his 
speech at the opening of the second session, he suggested the 
importance of a uniform currency, without distinguishing coin- 
age from paper ; and this body, in its answer, assured him that 
it was a subject which should receive its attention. Recollect, 
Sir, that at that time there were State banks having notes in 
circulation, though they were very few. The first Bank of the 
United States was established at the third session of the Con- 
gress, in 1791. The bill for its creation originated in the Sen- 
ate; the debates in which were at that time not public We 
have, however, the debates in the House, we have the reports 
of the Secretaries, and we have the law itself. Let us en- 
deavor to learn, from these sources, for what objects this institu- 
tion was created, and whether a national currency was one of 
those objects. 

Certainly, Sir, it must be admitted that currency was not the 
only object in incorporating the bank of 1791. The govern- 
ment was new ; its fiscal affairs were not well arranged ; it was 
greatly in debt; and the political state of things at the time 
rendered it highly probable* that sudden occasions for making 
loans would arise. That it might assist the operations of the 
treasury, therefore, and that it might make those loans to gov- 
ernment, if pressing occasions should arise, were two of the pur- 


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poses had in view in establishing the bank. Bnt it is equally 
clear that there was a third purpose, and that respected com- 
merce and currency. To furnish a currency for general circula- 
tion, and to aid exchange, was, demonstrably, a dear, distinct, 
and avowed object in the creation of the first bank. 

On the 13th of December, 1790, the Secretary of the Treasury 
made a report to the House of Representatives, recommending 
a national bank. In this report he set forth the advantages of 
such an institution ; one of these advantages, he says, consists 
•* in increasing the quantity of circulating medium, and quicken- 
ing the circulation." And he then proceeds to observe : " This 
last may require some illustration. When payments are to be 
made between different places, having an intercourse of business 
with each other, if there happen to be no private bills at mai^et, 
and there are no bank-notes which have a currency in both, 
the consequence is, that coin must be remitted. This is attended 
with trouble, delay, expense, and risk. If, on the contrary, there 
are bank-notes current in both places, the transmission of these 
by the post, or any other speedy or convenient conveyance, 
answers the purpose; and these again, in the alternations of 
demand, are frequently returned, v«ry soon after, to the place 
whence they were first sent; whence the transportation and 
retransportation of the metals are obviated, and a more con- 
venient and a more expeditious medium of payment is substi- 

Is not this cleejr proof, that one object in establishing the 
bank, in the opinion of the Secretary, was the creation of a 
currency which should have general credit throughout the coun- 
try, and, by means of such credit, should become a convenient 
and expeditious medium of exchange ? Cunrency, Sir, currency 
and exchange, were then, beyond all doubt, important objects, 
in the opinion of the proposer of the measure, to be accom- 
plished by the institution. The debates which took place in 
the House of Representatives confirm the same idea. Mr. 
Madison, who objected to the bill on constitutional grounds, ad- 
mitted, nevertheless, iliat one of the advantages of a bank con- 
sists <<in facilitating occasional remittances from different places 
where notes happen to circulate " ; and Mr. Ames, who was one 
of the most distinguished friends of the measure, and who rep- 
resented a commercial district, enlaj^ed on the great benefit of 


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the proposed institution to commerce. He insisted that the in- 
tercourse between the States could never be on a good footing, 
without an institution whose paper would circulate more exten- 
sively than that of any State bank ; and what he saw in the 
future we have seen in the past, and feel in the present. Other 
gentlemen, also, contended that some such institution was ne- 
cessary, in order to enable Congress to regulate the commerce 
of the country, and, for that reason, that it would be constitu- 
tional, as being proper means to a lawful end. 

When the bill had passed the two houses, the President, as 
we all know, asked the opinion of his cabinet upon its constitu- 
tionality. The Secretary of State and the Attorney-General 
were against it ; the Secretary of the Treasury was in favor of 
it; and among the grounds on which he placed the right of Con- 
gress to pass the law was its adaptation to the exercise of the 
commercial power, conferred by the Constitution on Congress. 
Hb language is : " The institution of a bank has, also, a nat- 
ural relation to the regulation of trade between the States, in so 
far as it is condudve to the creation of a convenient medium of 
exchange between them, and to the keeping up a full circula- 
tion, by preventing the frequent displacement of the metals in 
Teciprocal remittances. Money is the very hinge on which com- 
merce turns. And this does not mean merely gold and silver; 
many other things have served the purpose, with different de- 
grees of utility. Paper has been extensively employed. It can- 
not, therefore, be admitted, with the Attorney-General, that the 
regulation of trade between the States, as it concerns the medi- 
um of circulation and exchange, ought to be considered as con- 
fined to coin." " And it is," he adds, " in reference to these 
general relations of commeroe, that an establishment which fur- 
nishes facilities to circulation, and a convenient medium of 
exchange and alienation, is to be regarded as a regulation of 

Nothing can be plainer, Sir, than this language ; and there- 
fore nothing is more certain than that those who recommended 
and supported the first bank regarded it as a fit and necessary 
measure, in order to enable Congress to exercise its impcnrtant 
duty of regulating commerce, and to fulfil, especially, that part 
of the duty which enjoins upon it the provision of a prop» and 
suitable currency for circulation and exchange. 


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But it is not necessary to rely on these opinions of individual 
friends of the measure. Let the act speak for itself. Let us 
look into it, and search its reasons on its own face. What are 
the grounds and objects of the law, as set forth in the law itself? 
The preamble tells us. It declares : — 

" That the establishment of a bank " " will be very conducive 
to the successful conducting of the national finances ; will tend 
to give facility to the obtaining of loans, for the use of the gov- 
ernment, in sudden emergencies ; and will be productive of con- 
siderable advantages to trade and industry in generaV^ 

Trade and industry in general, therefore, constituted one dis- 
tinct and definite object of the incorporation, if the law truly 
expounds its own purposes. It was not revenue alone ; it was 
not the facility of making loans merely ; it was not mere utility 
to government; but in addition to these it was commerce, it 
was the interests of the people, it was trade and business in 
general, which, among other considerations, formed an impor- 
tant part of the objects of the incorporation. And indeed, Sir, 
events proved that it was vastly the most important part of all. 
What else did the first bank do for the government of the coun- 
try, at all to be compared, in the' amount of benefit, to its influ- 
ence on the currency and the exchanges? It is as clear as 
demonstration, therefore, that the government, in Greneral Wash- 
ington's time, did feel itself authorized by the Constitution, and 
bound in duty, to provide a safe currency, of general credit, for 
circulation and for exchange ? It did provide such a currency. 
It is remarkable enough, so comparatively small was the mere 
object of keeping the public money, that no provision for that 
purpose was inserted in the charter ; nor was there any law on 
the subject, so far as I remember, till the year 1800. The bank 
went into operation, and its success was great and instantane- 
ous ; and during the whole period of its existence there was no 
complaint of the state of the currency or the exchanges. 

And now. Sir, let me ask, what was it that gave this success 
to the new institution ? Its capital was small, and government 
had no participation in its direction ; it was committed entirely 
to individual management and control. 

Its notes, it is true, were made receivable in payments to gov- 
ernment ; that was one advantage. It had a solid capital, and 
its paper was at all times convertible into gold and silver, at the 


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vnH and pleasme of the holder; that was another and a most 
important ground of its prosperity. But, Sir, there was some- 
thing more than all this. There was something which touched 
men's sentiments, as well as their understandings. There was 
a cause which carried the credit of the new-bom bank, as on the 
wings of the wind, to every quarter and every extremity of the 
country. There was a charm, which created trust, and faith, 
and reliance, not only in the great marts of commerce, but in 
every comer into which money, in any form, could penetrate. 
That cause was its nationality of character. It had the broad 
seal of the Union to its charter. It was the institution of the 
nation, established by that new government which the people 
already loved ; and it was known to be designed to revive and 
foster that commerce which had so long been prostrate and 

Mr. President, let it be home in mind that I am not now ar- 
guing the constitutionality, or present expediency, of a Bank of 
the United States. My sentiments are already well known on 
that subject ; and if they were not, the subject is not now be- 
fore us. But I have adverted to the history of the first bank, 
and examined the grounds on which, and the purposes for which, 
it was established, in order to show the fact that this govern- 
ment, firom the first, has acknowledged the important duty and 
obligation of providing for currency and exchange, as part of the 
necessary regulation of commerce. I do not mean, at present, 
to say that a bank is the only or the indispensable means by 
which this duty can and must be performed ; although I cer- 
tainly think it the best Yet I wiU not set limits to the wisdom 
and sagacity of gentlemen, in the invention and adaptation of 
means. If they do not like a bank, let them try whatever they 
do like. If they know a better instrument or agent, let them 
use it. But I maintain that the performance of the duty by 
some means, or some instrument, or some agent, is indispensa- 
ble; and that so long as it shall be neglected, so long the com- 
merce and business of the country must suffer. 

The history of the late Bank of the United States manifests, 
as clearly as that of the first, that the government, in creating it, 
was acting, avowedly, in execution of its duty in regard to the 
currency. Fiscal aid, except so far as the famishing of a cur- 
rency was concerned, was hardly thought of. Its bills were 


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made receivable for revenue, indeed ; but that provision, as far 
as it went, was obviously a provision for currency. Currency 
for the revenue, however, was not the leading object. The lead- 
ing object was currency for the country. 

The condition of things at that time was very much like that 
which now exists. The revenue of the government was entirely 
adequate to all its wants ; but its operations were all obstructed 
by the derangement of the currency, and the people suffered as 
much as the government. The banks, or most of them, had sus- 
pended specie payments. Their paper was depreciated, in vari- 
ous degrees ; the exchanges were all disordered, and the com- 
merce of the country thrown into confusion. Government and 
people were all rich; but with all their riches, they had no 
money. Both might apply to themselves what Addison, being 
a much readier writer than speaker, said of himself, when he 
observed, that although he could draw for a thousand pounds, 
he had not a guinea in his pocket. 

Mr. Madison was then President of the United States. He 
had been one of the opposers of the first bank, on constitu- 
tional grounds, but he had yielded his own opinions to the gen- 
eral sentiment of the country, and to the consideration that the 
power had been established and exercised. He was not a man 
who carried his respect for himself, and his own opinions, so far 
as to overcome his respect for all other men's judgments. Wise 
men, Sir, are sometimes wise enough to surrender their own 
opinions, or at least to see that there is a time when questions 
must be considered as settled. Mr. Madison was one of these. 
In his annual message of the 5th of December, 1815, he says : — 

" The arrangement of the finances, with a view to the receipts and 
expenditures of a permanent peace establishment, will necessarily enter 
into the deliberations of Congress during the present session. It is true, 
that the improved condition of the public revenue will not only afford 
the means of maintaining the faith of the government with its creditors 
inviolate, and of prosecuting successfully the measures of the most 
liberal policy, but will also justify an immediate alleviation of the bur- 
dens imposed by the necessities of the war. It is, however, essential to 
every modification of the finances, that the benefits of a uniform national 
currency should be restored to the community. The absence of the 
precious metals will, it is believed, be a temporary evil ; but until they 
can again be rendered the general medium of exchange, it devolves on 


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the wisdom of Congress to provide a substitute, which shall equally 
engage the confidence and accommodate the wants of the citizens 
throughout the Union. If the operation of the State banks cannot pro- 
duce this result, the probable operation of a national bank will merit 
consideration ; and if neither of these expedients be deemed effectual, 
it may become necessary to ascertain the terms upon which the notes 
of the government (no longer required as an instrument of credit) shall 
be issued, upon motives of general policy, as a common medium of 

Here, Sir, is the express recommendation to Congress to pro- 
vide a " National Currency," a paper currency, a uniform cur- 
rency, for the uses of the community, as a substitute for the 
precious metals, and as a medium of exchange. It devolves on 
Congress, says Mr. Madison, to provide such a substitute as 
shall engage the confidence and accommodate the wants of the 
citizens throughout the Union ; and if the State banks cannot 
produce this result, a national bank will merit consideration. 
Can language be more explicit ? Currency, national currency, 
currency for exchange, currency which shall accommodate all 
the people, is the great, and leading, and, I may add, the sole 
object of the recommendation. 

Contrast now, Sir, this language, and these sentiments, with 
those of the message before us. Did Mr. Madison confine his 
recommendation to such measures of relief as might be useful 
to government merely ? Did he look exclusively to the treasury ? 
Did he content himself with suggesting a proper medium for 
the receipt of revenue, or a proper deposit for its safe-keeping ? 
Far otherwise. His view was general, statesmanlike, and fitted 
to the exigency of the times. The existing evil was one which 
afflicted the whole country ; and the remedy proposed by him 
was, as it should have been, commensurate with the whole evil. 
And, Sir, what a shock it would have produced at that time, if 
Mr. Madison, seeing the prostrate state of commerce and busi- 
ness all around him, had recommended to Congress to do 
nothing in the world but to take care that the taxes were col- 
lected, and those in the employment of government well paid ! 

Well, Sir, what was done with this message ? The House ol 
Representatives resolved, " that so much of the President's mes- 
sage as related to a uniform national currency should be referred 
to a select committee." Such a committee was raised, and the 


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honorable member from South Carolina* was placed at its head, 
as he well deserved to be, from his standing in the House, and 
his well-known opinions on this subject The honorable mem- 
ber was thus at the head of a committee, appointed, not on the 
subject of a revenue currency, or a currency for government, but 
a UNIFORM NATIONAL CURRENCY ; and, to cffcct the great object 
of this appointment, he brought in a bill for the establishment 
of a Bank of the United States. 

As had been the case formerly, so on this occasion, the Secre- 
tary of the Treasury made a report on the subject And now 
hear, Sur, what he says of the duty of Congress to provide a 
national currency, and of the objects which he proposes by the 
establishment of a national bank. 

" The constitutional and legal foundation of the monetary system of 
the United States is thus distinctly seen ; and the power of the federal 
government to institute and regulate it, whether the circulating medium 
consist of coin or of bills of credit, must, in its general policy, as well 
as in the terms of its investment, be deemed an exclusive power. It is 
true, that a system depending upon the agency of the precious metals 
will be affected by the various circumstances which diminish their quan- 
tity, or deteriorate their quality. The coin of a State sometimes van- 
ishes under the influence of political alarms ; sometimes in consequence 
of the explosion of mercantile speculations; and sometimes by the 
drain of an unfavorable course of trade. But whenever the emer- 
gency occurs that demands a change of system, it seems necessarily to 
follow, that the authority which was alone competent to establish the 
national coin is alone competent to create a national substitute. It has 
happened, however, that the coin of the United States has ceased to be 
the circulating medium of exchange, and that no substitute has hitherto 
been provided by the national authority. During the last year, the prin- 
cipal banks established south and west of New England resolved, that 
they would no longer issue coin in payment of their notes, or of the 
drafls of their customers for money received upon deposit. In this act 
the government of the United States had no participation ; and yet the 
immediate effect of the act was to supersede the only legal currency of 
the nation. By this act, although no State can constitutionally emit bills 
of credit, corporations erected by the several States have been enabled 
to circulate a paper medium, subject to many of the practical incon- 
veniences of the prohibited bills of credit 

* Mr. Calhoun. 


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^ Of the services rendered to the government by some of the State 
banks during the late war, and of the liberality by which some of them 
are actuated in their intercourse with the treasury, justice requires an 
explicit acknowledgment. It is a fact, however, incontestably proved, 
that those institutions cannot, at this time, be successfully employed to 
furnish a uniform national currency. The failure of one attempt to 
associate them, with that view, has already been stated. Another at- 
tempt, by their agency in circulating treasury-notes, to overcome the 
inequalities of the exchanges, has only been partially successful. And 
a plan recently proposed, with the design to curtail the issues of bank- 
notes, to fix the public confidence in the administration of the affairs of 
the banks, and to give to each bank a legitimate share in the circulation, 
is not likely to receive the general sanction of the banks. The truth is, 
that the charter restrictions of some of the banks, the mutual relation 
and dependence of the banks of the same State, and even of the banks 
of the different States, and the duty which the directors of each bank 
conceive they owe to their immediate constituents, upon points 6f secu- 
rity or emolument, interpose an insuperable obstacle to any voluntary 
arrangement, upon national considerations alone, for the establishment 
of a national medium through the agency of the State banks 

'^ The establishment of a national bank is regarded as the best, and 
perhaps the only adequate resource, to relieve the country and the gov- 
ernment from the present embarrassment. Authorized to issue notes, 
which will be received in all payments to the United States, the circula- 
tion of its issues will be coextensive with the Union ; and there will exist 
a constant demand, besuring a just proportion to the annual amount of the 
duties and taxes to be collected, independent of the general circulation 
for commercial and social purposes. A national bank will, therefore, 
possess the means and the opportunity of supplying a circulating medi- 
um, of equal use and value in every State, and in every district of every 

" The power of the government to supply and maintain a paper me- 
dium of exchange will not be questioned ; but for the introduction of 
that medium, there must be an adequate motive 

" Upon the whole, the state of the national currency, and other ior 
portant considerations connected with the operations of the treasury, 
render it a duty respectfully to propose — 

** That a national bank be established.*' 

This langaage, it must be admitted, is explicit enough, both 
in regard to the power and the duty ; and the whole report bears 
very little resemblance, most certainly, to the official paper from 
the Treasury Department now before us. 

VOL. IV. 30 


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When the bill was called up, the honorable member from 
South Carolina explained its objects in an able speech. He 
showed the absolute necessity of a national currency; the power 
of Congress over such currency, whether metallic or paper ; and 
the propriety and expediency of establishing a bank, as the best 
means of exercising these powers and fulfilling these duties. I 
agreed then, and I agree now, to the general sentiments expressed 
in that speech, heartily and entirely. I would refer to it, on this 
occasion, both as an able argument and a high authority ; and 
beg to adopt it, as setting forth, in a strong light, the sentiments 
which I am now endeavoring to enforce. 

Mr. Calhoun here rose to make an explanation. He said that he 
never saw the reporter's notes of his speech on that occasion, and 
therefore what he did say may not have been correctly reported. There 
were points of omission in that speech, which occupied a column and a 
half of the National Intelligencer. Mr. Calhoun said, that he took care 
then, as now, to fortify himself, and leave a road open to oppose, at any 
coming time, a national bank. He then said that he was opposed to a 
bank, but that he submitted to the necessity of the case. There was 
then a connection between the government and the banks ; and if the 
government had a right to regulate the currency, there was no meai^ 
of doing it but by a national bank. He had, both then and since, con- 
tended that government had no right to have any connection with any 
banks. In his opinion, the United States Bank (which he then advo- 
cated, and assisted to establish) was not established according to the 
Constitution. Congress had no right to establish such a bank. He 
acted contrary to his own impressions of right. Many people may do 
things which they do not believe to be lawful, from necessity. He acted 
from necessity. 

Mr. Webster, resuming hia remarks, said : — 

I thought the gentleman had said, formerly, that, in conse- 
quence of the decision of the question, he felt thenceforward 
precluded from opposing the bank as being unconstitutional. 

Mr. Calhoun again explained. He (Mr. Calhoun) thought the con- 
nection between government and banks was now broken, and that set 
him at liberty ; so that now he could oppose what he had then, and 
since, earnestly advocated. 

It is not my desire, Shr, to hold the gentleman to a report of 
his speech, which he may choose, even now, to disclaim. I have 


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never heard of his disclaiming it before ; and even now, Sir, I 
do not understand him as being desirous of retracting or deny- 
ing any thing contained in the printed report of his speech, re- 
specting the importance of a uniform national currency. That 
topic makes up the sum and substance of his whole speech. It 
was the topic of the occasion ; it was the express purpose for 
which his committee had been raised, and for the accomplish- 
ment of which the whole proceeding was gone into. It was all 
currency, currency, currency ; and whether the gentleman now 
thinks the law constitutional or unconstitutional, he cannot deny 
that his own object, and the object of Congress, was to furnish 
a circulating medium for the country. And here again, so un- 
important, relatively, was the mere custody or deposit of the 
public moneys in the bank, that the bill, as originally introduced, 
contained no provision for that object. A section was after- 
wards introduced, in committee of the whole, on my motion, 
providing for the deposit of the public moneys with the bank, 
unless the Secretary of the Treasury should, at any time, other- 
wise order and direct ; a reservation of power to the Secretary, 
which, as I think, and always have thought, was greatly abused 
by the removal of the deposits in 1833. By reference to the 
debates. Sir, it will be found that other friends of the measure 
followed up the general ideas of the honorable gentleman from 
South Carolina, and supported the bank, as a necessary agent 
or instrument for establishing anew a national currency, for the 
uses of commerce and exchange. 

The operation of the joint resolution of April, 1816, aided, no 
doubt, in a proper degree, by the institution of the bank, and the 
currency which it furnished, accomplished the great end of the 
resumption of specie payments ; and for a long period we had 
no further trouble with the currency. 

And I now proceed to say. Sir, that the late President of the 
United States has acknowledged this duty, as often, and as fully 
and clearly, as any of his predecessors. His various admissions 
or recognitions of this obligation are too recent and too fresh in 
every one's recollection to require or to justify particular citation. 
All the evils we now feel, indeed, we have encountered in the 
search after a better currency/. It has been in the avowed at- 
tempt to discharge the duty of government connected with the 
circulation, that the late administration has led us to where we 


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now are. The very first charge that the late President ever 
brought against the bank was, that it had not maintained a 
sound and uniform currency. Most persons, probably, will think 
the charge quite unfounded ; yet this was the charge. Its dere- 
liction of duty^ or its want of ability to perform what had been 
expected from it, its failure, in some way, to maintain a good 
currency, was the original professed cause of dissatisfaction. 
And when the bill for rechartering the bank was negatived, it 
was not on the ground that government had nothing to do with 
the national currency, but that a better provision for it might be 
made than we had in the bank. The duty w^s not to be dis- 
claimed, or thrown off, or neglected ; new agents, only, were to 
be employed, that it might be better performed. The State 
bemks would do better than the national bank had done ; the 
President was confident of this, and therefore he rejected the 
national bank as an agent, and adopted the State banks. And 
what he had so constantly promised us would happen, he as res- 
olutely maintained, afterwards, had happened. Down to his 
last message, down to the last hour of his administration, he in- 
sisted upon it that the State banks had fulfilled all his expecta- 
tions and all their own duties ; and had enabled the government 
to accomplish, in the very best manner, the great find important 
object of supplying the wants of the country in reference to 
currency and exchange. We have the same head of the treas 
ury,* Sir, who has repeated and echoed all these statements, 
whether of prophecy or fulfilment, in successive reports, some 
of them not less tersely and intelligibly written than that now 
before us ; and we have heads of other departments, who con- 
curred, I presume, from time to time, in the original statements, 
and in the faithful echoes of them from the treasury. All 
these functionaries have been laboring, with the utmost zeal, 
as they professed, to perform their constitutional obligation of 
famishing the country with a good currency, with a better cur- 
rency, with the best currency ; and they have dragged Congress, 
dragged the country, and dragged themselves, into difficulty, 
perplexity, and distress, in this long and hot pursuit And now, 
behold, they draw up all at once, and declare that the object of 
all this toil and struggle is one with which they have nothing at 
all to do! 

• Hon. Levi Woodbury. 

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But, as the last message of the late President was loud and 
warm in its praises of the State banks, for the good services 
which they rendered to currency and exchange, so, no doubt, 
would the first message of the present President have commend- 
ed, with equal earnestness, the success with which government 
had been able, by means of the State banks, to discharge this 
important part of its duties, if the events of May last had not 
left that subject no longer a topic of felicitation. By the sus- 
pension of specie payments all was changed. The duty of gov- 
ernment was changed, and the Constitution was changed also. 
GJovemment was now to give up, and abandon for ever, that 
very thing which had been the professed object of its most 
assiduous care and most earnest pursuit for eight long and ar- 
duous years ! 

Mr. President, when I heard of the suspension of the banks, I 
was by the side of the Ohio River, on a journey, in the course 
of which I had occasion, frequently, to express my opinion on 
this new state of things ; and those who may have heard me, or 
noticed my remarks, will bear witness that I constantly ex- 
pressed the opinion, that a new era had commenced ; that a 
question of principle, and a question of the highest importance, 
had arisen, or would immediately arise ; that, hereafter, the dis- 
pute would not be so much about means as ends ; that the ex- 
tent of the constitutional obligation of the government would be 
controverted; in short, that the question whether it was the 
duty of Congress to concern itself with the national currency 
must, inevitably, become the leading topic of the times. So I 
stated, whenever I had the pleasure of addressing my fellow- 
dtizens, and so I feel and think now. I said often, on these oc- 
casions, and I say now, that it is a question which the people, 
by the regular exercise of their elective franchise, must decide. 
The subject is one of so much permanent importance, and 
public men have become so committed, on the one side or the 
other, that the decision must, as I think, be made by the coun- 
try. We see an entirely new state of things. We behold new 
and untried principles of administration advanced and adopted. 
We witness an avowed and bold rejection of the policy hitherto 
always prevailing. The government has come, not to a pause, 
but to a revulsion. It not only stops, but it starts back ; it aban- 
dons the course which it has been pursuing for near fifty years, 


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and it reproaches itself with having been acting, all that time, 
beyond the limits of its constitutional power. 

It was my second proposition, Sir, that the message, the bill, 
and the amendment, taken together, deny, in substance, that 
this government has any power or duty connected with the 
currency, or the exchanges, beyond the mere regulation of ihe 

And, Sir, is this not true ? We are to judge of the message 
by what it omits, as well as by what it proposes. Congress is 
called together in a great commercial crisis. The whole busi* 
ness of the country is arrested by a sudden disorder of the cur- 
rency. And what is proposed ? Any thing to restore this cur^ 
rency ? Any thing with a direct view of producing the resump- 
tion of payment by the banks ? Is a single measure offered, or 
suggested, the main purpose of which is general relief to the 
country? Not one. No, Sir, not one. The administration 
confines its measures to the government itself. It proposes a 
loan, by the means of treasury-notes, to make good the defi- 
ciency in the revenue ; and it proposes secure vaults, and strong 
boxes, for the safe-keeping of the public moneys ; and here its 
paternal care ends. Does the message propose to grapple, in 
any way, with the main evil of the times ? Seeing that tl^ 
evil is one affecting the currency, does the message, like that of 
Mr. Madison, in 1815, address itself directiy to that point, and 
recommend measures of adequate relief? No such thing. It 
abstains from all general relief. It looks out for the interest of 
the government, as a government ; and it looks no further. Sir, 
let me turn to the message itself, to show that all its recom- 
mendations, and, indeed, all the objects in calling Ck)ngre8s to* 
gether, are confined to the narrow and exclusive purpose of 
relieving the want^ of the government 

The President says, that the regulations established by Con- 
gress for the deposit and safe-keeping of the public moneys 
having become inoperative by the suspension of payment by 
the banks ; and apprehending that the same cause would so di- 
minish the revenue, that the receipts into the treasury would not 
be sufficient to defray the expenses of government ; and as ques- 
tions were also expected to arise respecting the payment of the 
October instalment of the surplus revenue, and doubting wheth^ 


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gOTemment would be able to pay its creditors in specie, or its 
equivalent, according to law, he felt it to be his duty to call 
Congress together. These are the reasons for adopting that 
measure. They are all the reasons ; and they all have exclusive 
regard to the government itself. 

In the next place, let us see what measures the message 
recommends to Congress. In its own language, the objects 
demanding its attention are^ — 

" To regulate, by law, the safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursement 
of the public moneys ; to designate the funds to be received and pcdd 
by the government; to enable the treasury to meet promptly every 
demand upon it ; to prescribe the terms of indulgence, and the mode of 
settlement to be adopted, as well in collecting from individuals the rev- 
enue that has accrued, as in withdrawing it ftom former depositaries.'' 

These are aU the objects recommended particularly to the 
care of Congress ; and the enumeration of them is followed by 
a general suggestion, that Congress will adopt such further 
measures as may promote the prosperity of the country. This 
whole enumeration, it is obvious, is confined to the wants and 
convenience of the government itself. 

And now, Sir, let us see on what grounds it is that the mes- 
sage refrains from recommending measures of general relief. 
The President says, — 

" It was not designed by the Constitution that the government should 
assume the management of domestic or foreign exchange. It is, indeed, 
authorized to regulate, by law, the commerce between the States, and to 
provide a general standard of value or medium of exchange in gold and 
silver ; but it is not its province to aid individuals in the transfer of their 
funds, otherwise than through the facilities afforded by the Post-Ofiice 
Department. As justly might it be called on to provide for the trans- 
portation of their merchandise." 

And again, — 

" If, therefore, I refrain from suggesting to Congress any specific plan 
for regulating the exchanges of the country, relieving mercantile em- 
barrassments, or interfering with the ordinary operations of foreign 
or domestic commerce, it is from a conviction that such measures are 
not within the constitutional province of the general government, and 
that their adoption would not promote the real and permanent welfare 
of those they might be designed to aid." 


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The President, then, declines to recommend any measure for 
the relief of commerce, for the restoration of the currency, or for 
the benefit of exchanges, on the avowed ground, that, in his 
opinion, such measures are not within the constitutional power 
of Congress. He is distinct and explicit, and so far entitled to 
credit He denies, broadly and flatly, that there is any author- 
ity in this government to regulate the currency and the ex- 
changes, beyond its care of the coin. The question, then, is 
fairly stated. It cannot be misunderstood ; and we are now to 
see how Congress, and, what is much more important, how the 
country, will settle it 

Mr. President, if, in May last, when specie payments were 
suspended, the president of one of the banks had called his 
council of directors together, informed them that their affairs 
were threatened with danger ; that they could not collect their 
debts in specie, and might not be able to pay their creditors in 
specie, and recommended such measures as he thought their 
interests required; his policy in all this would have been no 
more exclusively confined to the interest of his corporation, 
than the policy of the message is confined to the interest of this 
great corporation of government Both in practice, therefore, 
and on principle, in reality, and avowedly, the administration 
abandons the currency to its fate. It surrenders all care over it, 
declines all concern about it, and denies that it has any duty 
connected with it 

Sir, the question, then, comes to be this : ShaU one of the 
great powers of the Constitution, a power essential to it on any 
just plan or theory of government, a power which has been ex- 
ercised from the beginning, a power absolutely necessary and 
indispensable to the proper regulation of the commerce of the. 
country, be now surrendered and abandoned for ever ? To this 
point we have come, after pursuing the "experiment^ of the 
late administration for five years. And from this point, I am 
persuaded, the country will move, and move strongly, in one 
direction or another. We shall either go over to the gentleman 
from Missouri,* and suffer him to embrace us in his gold and 
silver arms, and hug us to his hard-money breast ; or we shall 
return to the long-tried, well-approved, and constitutional prac- 
tice of the government 

* Mr. Benton. 


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As to the employment of the State banks for the purpose of 
maintaining the carrency, and carrying on the operations of ex- 
change, I certainly never had any confidence in that system, 
and have none now. 

I think the State banks can never furnish a medium for cir- 
colation, which shall have universal credit, and be of equal 
value everywhere. 

I think they have no powers or faculties which can enable 
them to restrain excessive issues of paper. 

I think their respective spheres of action are so limited, and 
their currencies so local, that they can never accomplish what is 
desired in relation to exchanges. 

Still, I prefer the employment of State banks to the project 
before us; because it is less of a project; because it is less 
dangerous; and, chiefly, because it does not surrender, effectu- 
afly and in terms, a great power of the Constitution. 

In every respect, this project is objectionable. It is but 
another "experiment"; and those who recommend it so zeal- 
ously were the authors of the last, and were equally full of con- 
fidence and assurance in regard to that 

By whom are we invited to try this experiment? What 
voices do we hear raised in its recommendation ? Are they not 
the well-known voices which we heard so often when the late 
** experiment " was begun ? We know of but one accession. 
The voice of the honorable member from South Carolina is 
heard, it is true, now mingling with the general strain ; and that 
is alL Where, then, is the ground for confidence in this experi- 
ment, more than there was for it in the last? 

This scheme, too, is against all our usages and aU our habits. 
It locks up the revenue, under bolts and bars, from the time of 
coUection to the time of disbursement. Our practice has been 
otherwise, and it has been a useful practice. In 1833, the Sec- 
retary of the Treasury admonished the deposit banks, since they 
had obtained the custody of the public funds, to accommodate 
the public, to loan freely, especially to importing merchants. 
And now a system is proposed to us, according to which any 
use of the public funds, by way of loan or accommodation to 
the public, is made a criminal offence, and to be prosecuted by 
indictment ! Admirable consistency ! 

But the great objection to the measure, that which so much 


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diminishes the importance of all other objections, is its abandon- 
ment of the duty of government The character of this project 
is severance of the government from the people. This, like the 
mark of Cain, is branded on its forehead. Grovemment sepa- 
rates itself, not from the banks merely, but from tjie community. 
It withdraws its care, it denies its protection, it renounces its 
own high duties. I am against the project, therefore, in prin- 
ciple and in detail ; I am for no new experiments ; but I am for 
a sound currency for the country. I mean by this, a convertible 
currency, so far as it consists of paper. I differ altogether, in 
this respect, from the gentleman from South Carolina. Mere 
government paper, not payable otherwise than by being received 
for taxes, has no pretence to be called a currency. After all that 
can be said about it, such paper is mere paper money. It is 
nothing but bills of credit It always has been, and always 
will be, depreciated. Sir, we want specie, and we want paper 
of universal credit, and which is convertible into specie at the 
will of the holder. That system of currency the experience of 
the Avorld and our own experience have both fully approved. 

I maintain. Sir, that the people of this country are entitled, 
at the hand of this government, to a sound, safe, and uniform 
currency. K they agree with me, they will themselves say so. 
They will say, " It is our right ; we have enjoyed it forty years ; 
it is practicable, it is necessary to our prosperity, it is the duty 
of government to furnbh it; we ought to have it, we can have 
it, and we will have it" 

The language of the administration, on the other hand, is, 
" Good masters, you are mistaken. You have no such right 
You are entitled to no such thing from us. The Constitution 
has been misunderstood. We have suddenly found out its true 
meaning. A new light has flashed upon us. It is no business 
of ours to furnish a national currency. You cannot have it, and 
you will not get it" 

Mr. President, I have thus stated what I think to be the real 
question now before the country. I trust myself, cheerfully, to 
the result I am willing to abide the test of time, and the ulti- 
mate judgment of the people ; for it is a sentiment deeply in- 
fused into me, it is a conviction which pervades every faculty I 
possess, that there can be no settled and permanent prosperity 
of the commerce and business of the country, until the constitu- 


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tional duty of government, in regard to the currency, be honest- 
ly and faithfully fulfilled. 

In Senate, October 3, Mr. Calhoun spoke on the same subject at 
length, and also in reply to Mr. Webster^s argument. At the conclu- 
sion of his speech, Mr. Webster addressed the Senate as follows : — 

The gentleman from South Carolina has said of my re- 
marks on a former day, that where he looked for argument, he 
found only denunciation. But there are always two views of 
such a matter ; it may certainly happen that denunciation is 
given instead of argument ; but it may also happen that argu- 
ments which cannot be answered are got rid of by calling them 
denunciation. That, however, is a question which it is not for 
the two parties themselves to decide. I listened with great re- 
spect to the opinions of the member, as it is my constant prac- 
tice to do, and I meant to express my astonishment, at this 
period of his public life, looking back to his former course in rela- 
tion to the currency of this country for the space of nearly twen- 
ty years, — I say, I must give utterance to my astonishment 
at finding him where he now is, namely, according to his own 
avowal, back again to the old Continental money ! If this gov- 
ernment paper currency, of which the gentleman is now become 
the sudden and zealous advocate, is not what I pronounced it 
to be. Continental money ^ what is it ? It is not a species of ex- 
chequer-notes ; it is a mere government paper, circulating with- 
out interest, receivable for the dues of government, and with no 
certain provisions for its redemption; and that is what the old 
Continental money was. But the gentleman says there is no 
analogy between his proposed money and the old Continental, 
because Congress then levied no taxes! But Congress made 
requisitions on the States, and did not the States levy taxes ? 

The greater part of his remarks, so far from being any reply 
to the subjects under discussion, were taken up with a general 
history of the banking system. No doubt much of the outline 
he has given may be correct ; but there is nothing in all he has 
advanced to justify his leading inference, which is, that the 
credit system ought to be destroyed, and the hard-money sys- 
tem henceforth to be acted upon. In coming to this conclusion, 


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he ig by far too general ; he seems, indeed, to have generalized 
himself* out of all power of applying practical truths to common 

He has referred to the Bank of Amsterdam as an argument 
in proof of the superiority of a bank of deposit over one of circu- 
lation. But, so far from a bank of deposit being safer than one 
of circulation, we all know that the Bank of England took the 
character of a bank of circulation, among other things, to avoid 
the danger of a bank of deposit, making the money in the bank 
liable to constant call by the bills. Every day's experience in 
this way brings the solidity of the bank to the test It is aston- 
ishing that he should assert the superiority and greater safety of 
such kind of banks ; they have all the dangers of banks of circu- 
lation, without any of their security, which is the liability of an 
Immediate demand, at any time, for the specie represented by 
their tiotes. Certificates of deposit issued by a bank of deposit 
arc not subject to this test When certificates upon sums in 
actual deposit are issued, who is to know when the issue begins 
upon deposits not in existence ? Who is to know where such 
an issue of such certificates may end ? I conclude, therefore, 
that the notes or certificates of a bank of deposit are not in their 
nature so good as the convertible notes of our common banks 
of circulation. But if the certificates issued upon actual depos- 
its are not so safe as the notes of banks, always convertible at 
the pleasure of the holder, then how much less safe are the 
notes proposed by the gentleman ! Notes to be issued on no 
deposit, and convertible at no time ! These he would issue, not 
upon the basis of any deposit, not convertible at the will of the 
holder, and not bearing any interest! Now, here, I insist upon 
it, is all the character and all the danger of the old Continental 
money ; and this train of reasoning, the gentleman says, is de- 
nunciation ! 

The gentleman brings an objection against the Bank of Eng- 
land as a bank of circulation, which he doubtless deems of great 
weight against all such banks. He says the Bank of England 
made successive augmentations of its capital, beginning first 
with a capital of a quarter of a million, and ending, after the 
lapse of one hundred years, with a capital of eleven millions. 
But will the gentleman call this a rapid advance ? Within the 
space of one hundred years, has not the advance of commerce, 


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trade, manufactures^ popniation, and every thing else, been far 
more rapid ? Is it not the fact, that commerce and manufac- 
tures have outgrown the bank, and that it has lagged behind ? 
The capital of that bank now, at eleven millions, for a commerce 
80 vast and so extended as that of England, is a much smaller 
capital, in point of fact, than its original capital of a quarter of 
a million a century ago. Surely the gentleman must admit that, 
in the course of one hundred years, manufactures and commerce 
have increased beyond all proportion to the capital of the bank. 

Again, the gentieman says, that, in 1797, when the Bank of 
England suspended specie payments,* to the astonishment of 
the world, the suspension produced no great shock. I think 
somewhat differently. It is true there was no immediate, in- 
stantaneous shock, but the wants of the government and of the 
community were such as to give rise to a constant over-i?sue, so 
that at one time the depreciation, I think, was nearly twenty 
per cent. When government afterwards threatened to resume 
specie payments, a great contraction of issues became necessary. 
And if the suspension rendered such a contraction, at a subse- 
quent period, necessary, or rather inevitable, how can it be as- 
serted that the suspension never occasioned any great shock ? 
That contraction was of itself a great shock and a great distress. 
It made a violent change in the relations of debtor and creditor 
throughout the kingdom. 

So in this country, in 1814, the gentleman says he was as- 
tonished that the suspension produced so little effect What 
effect, I would ask, would satisfy him ? What sort of a shock 
must it be before he will feel it ? The fact is, that at that 
time, in places where the banks had maintained specie pay- 
ments, exchange on some places where they had suspended 
was at twenty-five per cent discount A man here could not 
buy a bill on Boston at less than twenty-five per cent ad- 
vance; in other words, the paper of the banks in this Dis- 
trict was depreciated twenty-five per cent ! And was not that 
shock enough? Was not that a shock to the credit of the 
country? To me it appears that the gentleman, in his general 
view, and in his desure to fix great eras and establish a few 
sweeping propositions, leaves out quite too much of what is 

* This assertion^ as here responded to, is modified, and much changed, in the 
frijatd speech of Mr. Calhoun, so as to read diflferently. — Note by the Reporter, 

VOL. IV. 31 


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practical and precise. He expresses his astonishment at what 
he witnessed in 1816, when, although the banks did not pay 
specie, yet, as he says, they kept their credit He certainly saw 
what I did not see. Their credit was depreciated from New 
England, proceeding south, to Washington ; in all that region 
their credit fell to various low rates. Beyond that point I have 
less recollection of the circumstances. Granting, however, the 
gentleman's argument, that, when banks have suspended specie 
payment, still their paper has maintained its ground, does it 
follow that a paper starting into existence on the very principle 
of suspension, and never even promising to pay, will be a good 
paper currency ? Does he think such a paper can maintain its 
ground, or ever, indeed, obtain any ground to stand upon at all? 
Yet such is the currency the gentleman has proposed ; and tJie 
argument by which he would recommend it to the country is 
built upon the assumed fact, that the paper even of suspended 
banks is a good currency ! 

To prevent all mistakes on this subject, I desire to repeat, 
that, in my opinion, it is utterly vain and hopeless to maintain 
any paper circulation at par with specie, that is not convertible 
into specie at the will of the holder. If we are not ready to ad- 
mit this, the history, not only of all other countries, but of our 
own country, must have been lost upon us. 

The gentleman next proceeds, after this strong testimony in 
favor even of broken banks, to descant vehemently upon the dan- 
gers which he now apprehends from the whole banking system, 
and of course even from good banks ! He has classed all these 
perils very systematically, and finds that the banking system is 
full of dangers ; 1st, to civil liberty ; 2dly, to industry ; and 3dly, 
to the moral and intellectual development of mankind.* 

Now, as relates to liberty, the only question is, whether the 
extension of the property and business of the great mass of 
mankind can be adverse and unfavorable to liberty. If the rais- 
ing of the great mass of men to a better condition, if surround- 
ing them with greater comforts and greater abundance of al 
things, if thus elevating their social condition, is unfavorable tc 
liberty, then, indeed, the banking system, or, in other words, the 
credit system, (for it is the same thing ; they are identical,) is, as 

* This proposition of Mr. Calhoun *8 is quite soflened down, and almost sup- 
pressed, ill the printed speech. — iVo/e by the Reporter. 


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the gentleman maintains, full of danger to liberty ; for it is that 
very system, and none other, which, within the last two hundred 
years, has raised the condition of the body of the people in all 
commercial countries. It is that system which has made the 
working men and the industrious classes of modem times supe- 
rior even to the landed proprietors and feudal lords of former 

The institution of banks is one part in that great system of 
trade, commerce, and credit, which has grown up within the last 
two centuries ; and, let me ask, what has been the progress of 
liberty during the lapse of these centuries ? Does not the slight- 
est retrospect confute the gentleman's argument? Are the ideas 
of liberty now less distinct, or its enjoyment less general or less 
secure, than in the days of the Stuarts ? If banks are useful to 
trade and commerce, if they give to industry the facilities of 
capital, if they thus raise the mass of society into a better con- 
dition, providing for them better, making them richer, multiply- 
ing the means of employment for all, enabling the industrious to 
maintain themselves better and to educate their children better, 
who is ready to assert that all this has an unfavorable effect on 
the progress of civil liberty ? 

In reply to my arguments on a former day, showing it to be 
the duty of the government to regulate the currency, (which I 
can agree with the gentleman in calling the very life-blood of the 
political body,) the honorable gentleman asserts that government 
has no right to interfere with individuals. He therefore proposes 
individual banking, and maintains that credit is a man's private 
property ; that government has no more right to interfere with 
this than with any other kind of property ; that government has 
no right to put restrictions of any kind upon it But this, which 
the gentleman asserts is not the right of government, is the 
very and the especial object for which government is instituted. 
Grovernment does interfere and place restrictions in a thousand 
ways upon every kind of individual property ; and it is done, 
and is necessarily done, by every government, for the good of the 
whole community. But if the gentleman is so very desirous of 
establishing such a system of private individual banking, he 
need not go far, he need not even stir from his seat ; he may 
see everywhere around him all the blessings of the system of 
individual irresponsible banking which he recommends. If this 


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is the currency which the government seeks to give us, we have 
got it! 

The gentleman's system has been tried; it is now upon us; 
and the country has suffered enough, and too much, from it al- 
ready. Years ago, as well as now, we had private banking ; 
everybody turned banker, everybody put out his notes for cir- 
culation, till it was at last found necessary to restrain this right, 
this very right which the gentleman says government has not 
the right to restrain ; a right which, however, has more than once 
been proved to be, after all, nothing more than the right of 
practising fraud and imposition upon the people. Many, per- 
haps most, of the States, therefore, have restrained it by law 
It is the very necessity of checking and restraining the licentious 
exercise of this individual right which is the origin of banking 

By the institution of such corporations, the common right b 
restricted for the benefit of the whole, and paper as money is 
required to be founded on assigned capital and recognized 
credit, and to be issued under an administration of responsi- 
ble citizens, responsible, individually and corporately, to the 
laws. It is to restrain a right which leads to so much im- 
position, that it has been found necessary to create banking 
companies, and by means of them to establish commercial 
credit on a safe foundation. This is the system of credit which 
thfe gentleman is now joined with the administration to uproot 
and to destroy. Instead of it, he would let loose individual 
bankers with their spurious paper all over the country : and, in 
proof of the expediency of doing all this, he maintains that the 
banking system is full of danger to liberty. That it may be 
dangerous to the liberty of defrauding and imposing upon the 
poor, I have already conceded to him, and believe there are few 
who will not agree with me that this, if a danger, is a whole- 
some and valuable one. 

But the gentleman has also discovered, not only that the 
credit system is full of danger to liberty, but that it exercises a 
pernicious influence upon the industry of the people! This, 
indend, is to me entirely new. Surely the gentleman has been 
dealing with things unreal and imaginary ! It is quite a new 
thing to me that the young men of our country are, as the gen- 
tleman says, seeking after an education to make themselves 


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bankers' clerks ; and that there is no other road to distinction 
but employment behind the counter and in the banking-houses ! 
How long has this danger been hanging over the land, which 
has never till now been seen, or suspected, or dreamt of? Even 
the late illustrious President and the gentleman from Missouri* 
never discovered or suspected so much as this in all their indus- 
try and zeal against the banking institutions of the country. 
It is quite novel to me that the ingenuous youth of the country, 
in all its colleges and halls, are only seeking to prepare them- 
selves to be cashiers and tellers, writers and accountants! I 
have never heard that their desire of distinction has taken such 
a turn, or that, out of regard to such pursuits, they have stifled 
their ambition for literary and professional distinction. On the 
contrary, if we look at the subject as it is, we shall discover that 
a well-regulated banking system is eminently favorable to the 
industry of the people, by assisting the industrious who have no 
capital, and lending aid to enterprise which otherwise would 
waste itself in ineffectual efforts. This system, invaluable to 
our country, has a tendency to break down the influence which 
dead capital confers upon the few who possess it, while it lifts 
up the many who have no capital In so doing, it promotes 
industry, and betters the condition of the greater number. Look 
at our villages and manufacturing cities in the North ; are they 
smitten, and withered, and destroyed by this system ? They all 
have their banks, which are established according to the neces- 
sities and prospects of the people ; and wherever they are, their 
industry is seen in full and vigorous operation, and the people 
busy in prosperous employment But where the credit system, 
by any cause, is prostrate and injured, (as it now is,) and its 
action made to cease, the hum of business is silenced, and the 
industrious portion of the community, the mass of the people, is 
thrown out of employment 

Let us look at things as they are, and let us not be influ- 
enced by denunciation against institutions which exist in all the 
States. That these institutions have been abused is very prob- 
able ; but how shall that be remedied ? After all I have heard 
from the gentleman and his coadjutors, I find the only remedy 
they propose is to withdraw from them ! To withdraw from 

* Mr. Benton. 
31 • 


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them! But will that remedy any evils of the system? Men 
might as well think of putting out a fire by running away from 
JL If w^e saw a house in flames, and the blaze rushing out 
through the windows, who would think of recommending us, as 
a means of extinguishing the fire, to withdraw, to go away, and 
leave the house and the fire to themselves ? The system is with 
us, and cannot be got rid of, even if it were desimble to get rid 
of it It is, therefore, our duty to do what we can to regulate it 
It is our duty, as practical men, taking things as we find them, 
and seeing that to eradicate an evil is not possible, but to miti- 
gate it may be e^sy, — it is, under such circumstances, our para* 
mount duty to render the currency which we have the best possir 
ble. Instead of this, the administration undertakes to. do noth- 
ing, and the honorable gentleman echoes back the advice, and 
proposes to withdraw the government, to divorce it from the sys- 
tem ! But does the gentleman think that, if there are evils, those 
evils will be less when all remedy is withdrawn ? 

With respect to the two currencies, one of specie for the 
government, and the ot-her of depreciated paper for the peo{de, 
the reasoning we have heard is this : " Would you have govern- 
ment take bad money for its dues ? If the people are willing 
to take such a depreciated medium, ought the government to 
take it?" 

This, Sir, is not our point of objection ; we do not wish the 
government to take bad money because the people are obliged 
to take it What we complain of is, that the administration 
does nothing, and proposes nothing, to make this bad money of 
the people better. We want an equality ; that both government 
and people may share the same fate, and use the same money, 
and that the government may perform its duty of rendering the 
money, the currency of the people, sound and good. 

It is this equality which I desire ; not that government should 
take bad money ^ but that it should adopt such measures that 
there may be no bad money to take ; that the people first, and 
then the government, may have and receive good money. This 
can only be done by regulating the currency. It cannot be done 
by continuing a wild warfare against the credit, the currency, 
tiie money, of the people. The government has, in times past, 
thus regulated the currency; and if ever we are to see a re- 
tarn of prosperity it must be done again. But the vice of the 


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message, the defect of this measure and of this amendment, is, 
that nothing is attempted for the people ; government looks out 
for its own part, for the lion's share, and leaves all the rest to 
chance and accident! Again, I assert and maintain that it is 
the duty of the government to give effectual relief to the peo- 
ple, and to the people first and most especially ; for if the peo- 
ple are relieved from a bad currency, it is plain enough there 
would be no bad currency for the government to receive. Then 
this invidious and selfish measure of one currency for the gov- 
ernment and another for the people would be rendered unneces- 
sary. It is the duty of the government to do what it can ; its 
power is a trust power ; it was not created for itself alone. Its 
object is the good of the people ; and now is not the time to 
disavow and neglect that object, by leaving the country to suffer, 
and only providing for itself. 

In reply to Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Webster said : — 

I shall detain the Senate, Sir, with a few remarks only in reply 
to the gentleman from Pennsylvania. 

The gentleman has met the question fairly. He denies that 
there is any power or duty belonging to this government such 
as I have attempted to maintain. He denies that it is in- 
cumbent on Congress to maintain a sound and uniform cur- 
rency, or to have any thing to do with currency or exchange, 
beyond the regulation of coin. I am glad to see the honorable 
member take this distinct ground. All see now what the ques- 
tion is. 

The gentleman remarked, that I had abandoned that part of 
the Constitution which is usually relied on as giving Congress 
power to establish a bank ; that is to say, the power to lay and 
collect taxes. But you will remember, Sir, that I was not dis- 
cussing the power to create a bank, although, certainly, I have 
no doubt of the power. I was not contending merely for some- 
thing that should aid in the collection of taxes ; I was speaking 
of the power and duty of providing a sound currency for the 
whole country; a power and a duty which would belong to 
this government, if another dollar of taxes were never to be col- 
lected. Yes, Sir, if we knew, this day, that the proceeds of the 
sales of the public lands would yield a revenue equal to all the 
wants of the government for a hundred years to come, our want 


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of a currency would be the same, and the duty of government 
to provide it the same, as it now is. 

The gentleman argues, too, that a power to provide a cur- 
rency cannot be drawn from the commercial power granted to 
CJongress ; because, he says, that power is only to regulate com- 
merce, and to regulate is not to create. This is not quite cor- 
rect; there are many forms of expression in our language, espe- 
cially those in which complex operations are described, in whicK 
to regulate means to cause, or to produce. But suppose I con- 
cede to the gentleman that to regulate never means to create. 
What then ? Would that prove that Congress could not create 
a currency, in order thereby to regulate commerce ? May it not 
be necessary to make one thing, in order to regulate another? 
Let us take the gentleman's own illustration. He says Congress 
has power to regulate the value of foreign coin ; but that this 
cannot mean that it has the power to create such coin. Very 
true ; but then it may make the steelyards, or the balance, (may 
it not ?) as necessary instruments to ascertain that value which 
is to be regulated. It may establish an assay on any scale it 

We have just passed a bill authorizing the treasury depart- 
ment to make and issue treasury-notes ; and we have done this 
under the power to borrow money ; and certainly the honorable 
member himself did not doubt, in that case, that, in exercising 
a clear constitutional power, we had a right to make any thing 
which became necessary as an instrument to its convenient 

The power of Congress, therefore, over the currency; its 
power to regulate all currency, metallic or paper ; and its power, 
and its duty, to provide and maintain a sound and universal 
currency, belong to it as an indispensable and inseparable part 
of its general authority to regulate commerce. 

But, Sur, I might safely go much farther than this. It could 
be shown, from a hundred instances, that the power to regulate 
commerce has been held to be broad enough to include an 
authority to do things, to make things, to create things, which 
are useful and beneficial to commerce ; things which are not so 
much regulations of commerce, in a strict sense, as they are 
aids and assistances to commerce. The gentleman himself, I 
will undertake to say, has voted for laws for such purposes veiy 


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Mr. President, we have appropriated, I know not how much 
more, or how much less, than a million of dollars, for a break- 
water at the mouth of the Delaware. The gentleman has con- 
curred in these appropriations. Now, Sir, we did not propose to 
regulate a breakwater ; we proposed to make it, to create it. In 
order to regelate commerce, and to regulate it beneficially. Con- 
gress resolved to create a breakwater ; and the honorable mem- 
ber never found any constitutional difficulty in the way, so far 
as I remember. And yet, Sir, a breakwater is not essential and 
indispensable to commerce; it is only useful and beneficial 
But a sound currency, of universal and equal credit, is essential 
to the enjoyment of the just advantages of the intercourse 
between the States. The light-houses on the sea-coast, and 
on the lakes, and all the piers, buoys, and harbors, have been 
created, in like manner, simply by the power of Congress to 
regulate commerce. 

Mr. President, the honorable member from Pennsylvania, 
growing warm in the progress of his speech, at length burst out 
into an exclamation. ** What," said he, " would the framers 
of the Constitution say, could they be now present, and hear 
the doctrines for which the member from Massachusetts con- 

Sir, I have already quoted the language of several of these 
good and great men. I rely on their opinions, fully and clearly 
expressed. I have quoted Mr. Madison, among others; but, 
Sir, to use the language of the forum, I am willing to call the 
witness again into court, and to examine him further. Mr. 
Madison, all will admit, is a competent witness. He had as 
much to do as any man in framing the Constitution, and as 
much to do as any man in administering it. Nobody, among 
the living or the dead, is more fit to be consulted on a question 
growing out of it ; and he is far from being considered as a 
latitudinarian in his mode of construction. I will then. Sir, 
question him further. 

Be it remembered. Sir, that my proposition simply is, that it 
is a part of the power and duty of Congress to maintain a gen- 
eral currency, suitable to the state of things existing among us, 
for the use of commerce and the people. Now, Sir, what 
says Mr. Madison? I read from his message of December, 


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" Upon this general view of the subject, it is obvious that there is only 
wanting to the fiscal prosperity of the government the restoration of a 
uniform medium of exchange. The resources and the faith of the 
nation, displayed in the system which Congress has established, insure 
respect and confidence both at home and abroad. The local accumula- 
tions of the revenue have already enabled the treasury to meet the pub- 
lic engagements in the local currency of most of the States ; and it is 
expected that the same cause will produce the same effect throughout 
the Union. But, for the interests of the community at large, as well 
as for the purposes of the treasury, it is essential that the nation should 
possess a currency of equal value, credit, and use, wherever it may 
circulate. The Constitution has intrusted Congress, exclusively, with 
the power of creating and regulating a currency of that description i 
and the measures which were taken during the last session, in execution 
of the power, give every promise of success. The Bank of the United 
States has been organized under auspices the most favorable, and can- 
not fail to be an important auxiliary to those measures." 

And now, Sir, I hand the witness over to the gentleman for 

But, Sir, if the honorable member from Pennsylvania could 
overthrow my proposition, he would equally overthrow that of his 
friend from South Carolina ; because that gentleman admits that 
there must be a paper currency of some kind, and that a paper 
currency issued by the authority of government And if we both 
fall, we shall pull down along with us (which mercy forefend!) 
the Secretary of the Treasury, report and all; for it is one of 
the leading objects of that luminous paper to show how far 
government issues might usefully become the medium of pay- 
ment and the means of circulation. And, indeed, every vote 
given in Congress for the treasury-note bill, the gentleman's 
own vote, if given, or so far as given, on the ground that treas- 
ury-notes shall pass from hand to hand as currency, is a refu- 
tation of his argument 

Mr. President, this power over the currency for which I am 
contending is in the Constitution; the authority of Congress 
over commerce would be radically deficient without it; the 
power has been admitted, acknowledged, and exercised. To 
deny that this power is in the Constitution, is to rewrite the 
Constitution, to reconstruct it, to take it away, and give us a 
substitute. To deny that the power has been acknowledged, 
and exercised, is to contradict history, and to reverse facts* 


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On the 27th of December, 1837, a series of resolutions was moved in 
the Senate by Mr. Calhoun, on the subject of slavery. The fiAh of the 
series was expressed in the following terms : — 

" Resolved, That the intermeddling of any State, or States, or their 
citizens, to abolish slavery in this District, or any of the Territories, on the 
ground, or under the pretext, that it is immoral or sinful, or the passage 
of any act or measure of Congress with that view, would be a direct and 
dangerous attack on the institutions of all the slave-holding States.' 

These resolutions were taken up for discussion on several successive 
days. On the 10th of January, 1838, Mr. Clay moved the following 
resolution, as a substitute for the fifth of Mr. Calhoun's series : — 

" Resolved^ That the interference, by the citizens of any of the States, 
with the view to the abolition of slavery in this District, is endangering 
the rights and security of the people of the District ; and that any act or 
measure of Congress, designed to abolish slavery in this District, would 
be a violation of the faith implied in the cessions by the States of Vir- 
ginia and Maryland, a just cause of alarm to the people of the slave- 
holding States, and have a direct and inevitable tendency to disturb and 
endanger the Union." 

On the subject of this amendment, Mr. Webster addressed the Senate 
as follows : — 

Mr. President, — I cannot concur in this resolution. I do 
not know any matter of fact, or any ground of argument, on 
which this affirmation of plighted faith can be sustained. I see 
nothing by which Congress has tied up ils bands, either directly 
or indirectly, so as to put its clear constitutional power beyond 
the exercise of its own discretion. I have carefully examined 

* Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 10th of Janaarj, 
IB38, upon a Resolution moved by Mr. Clay as a substitute for a Resolution 
A&zed by Mr. Calhoun on the subject of Slavery in the District of Columbia. 


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the acts of cession by the States, the act of Congress, the pro- 
ceedings and history of the times, and I find nothing to lead me 
to doubt that it was the intention of all parties to leave this, like 
other subjects belonging to legislation for the ceded territory, 
entirely to the discretion and wisdom of Congress. The words 
of the Constitution are clear and plain. None could be clearer 
or plainer. Congress, by that instrument^ has power to exercise 
exclusive jurisdiction over the ceded territory, in all cases what- 
soever. The acts of cession contain no limitation, condition, oi 
qualification whatever, except that, out of abundant caution, 
there is inserted a proviso that nothing in the acts contained 
shall be construed to vest in the United States any right of 
proj>erty in the soil, so as to affect the rights of individuals 
therein, otherwise than as such individuals might themselves 
transfer their right of soil to the United States. The acts of 
cession declare, that the tract of country " is for ever ceded and 
relinquished to Congress and to the government of the United 
States, in full and absolute right and exclusive jurisdiction, as 
well of soil as of persons residing or to reside therein, pursuant 
to the t«nor and effect of the eighth section of the first article of 
the Constitution of the United States." 

Now, that section, to which reference is thus expressly made 
in these deeds of cession, declares, that Congress shall have 
power " to exercise exclusive legislation, in all cases whatsoever, 
over such district, not exceeding ten miles square, as may, by 
cession of particular States and the acceptance of Congress, be- 
come the seat of government of the United States." 

Nothing, therefore, as it seems to me, can be clearer, than that 
the States making the cession expected Congress to exercise 
over the District precisely that power, and neither more nor less, 
which the Constitution had conferred upon it I do not know 
how the provision, or the intention, either of the Constitution 
in granting the power, or of the States in making the cession, 
could be expressed in a manner more absolutely free from all 
doubt or ambiguity. 

I see, therefore, nothing in the act of cession, and nothing in 
the Constitution, and nothing in the history of this transaction, 
and nothing in any other transaction, implying any limitation 
upon the authority of Congress. 

If the assertion contained in this resolution be true, a yeiy 


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strange result, as it seems to me, must follow. The resolution 
affirms that the faith of Congress is pledged, indefinitely. It 
makes no limitation of time or circumstance. If this be so, 
then it is an obligation that binds us for ever, as much as if 
it were one of the prohibitions of the (Constitution itself. And 
at all times hereafter, even if, in the course of their history, 
availing themselves of events, or changing their views of pol- 
icy, the States themselves should make provision for the eman- 
cipation of their slaves, the existing state of things could not be 
changed, nevertheless, in this District It does really seem to 
me, that, if this resolution, in its terms, be true, though slavery 
in every other part of the world may be abolished, yet in the 
metropolis of this great republic it is established in perpetuity. 
This appears to me to be the result of the doctrine of plighted 
faith, as stated in the resolution. 

In reply to Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Webster said : — 

The words of the resolution speak for themselves. They re- 
quire no comment They express an unlimited plighted faith. 
The honorable member will so see if he will look at those 
words. The gentleman asks whether those who made the ces- 
sion could have expected that Congress would ever exercise 
such a power. To this I answer, that I see no reason to doubt 
that the parties to the cession were as willing to leave this as to 
leave other powers to the discretion of Congress. I see not the 
slightest evidence of any especial fear, or any especial care or 
eoncern, on the part of the ceding States, in regard to this 
particular part of the jurisdiction ceded to Congress. And I 
think I can ask, on the other side, a very important question for 
the consideration of the gentleman himself, and for that of the 
Senate and the country ; and that is. Would Congress have ac- 
cepted the cession with any such restraint upon its constitution- 
al power, either express or understood to be implied ? I think 
not Looking back to the state of things then existing, and es- 
pecially to what Congress had so recently done, when it accept- 
ed the cession of the Northwestern Territory, I entertain no 
doubt whatever that Congress would have refused the cession 
altogether, if offered with any condition or understanding that 
its constitutional authority to exercise exclusive legislation over 
the District in all cases whatsoever should be abridged. 

VOL. IV. 32 


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The Senate will observe that I am speaking solely to the 
point of plighted faith. Upon other parts of the resolution, and 
upon many other things connected with it, I have said nothing. 
I only resist the imposition of new obligations, or a new prohibi- 
tion, not to be found, as I think, either in the Constitution or 
any act of CJongress. I have said nothing on the expediency of 
abolition, immediate or gradual, or the reasons which ought to 
weigh with Congress should that question be proposed. I can, 
however, well conceive what would, as I think, be a natural 
and fair mode of reasoning on such an occasion. 

When it is said, for instance, by way of argument, that Coa- 
gress, although it have the power, ought not to take a lead in 
the business of abolition, considering that the interest which the 
United States have in the whole subject is vastly less than that 
which States have in it, I can understand the propriety and per- 
tinency of the observation. It is, as far as it goes, a pertinent 
and appropriate argument, and I shall always be ready to give 
it the full weight belonging to it "When it is argued that, in 
a case so vital to the States, the States themselves should be 
allowed to maintain their own policy, and that the government 
of the United States ought not to do any thing which shall, 
directly or indirectly, shake or disturb that policy, this is a line of 
argument which I can understand, whatever weight I may be 
disposed to give to it ; for I have always not only admitted, but 
insisted, that slavery within the States is a subject belonging 
absolutely and exclusively to the States themselves. 

But the present is not an attempt to establish any such course 
of reasoning as this. The attempt is to set up a pledge of the 
public faith, to do the same office that a constitutional prohibition 
in terms would do ; that is, to set up a direct bar, precluding all 
exercise of the discretion of Congress over the subject It has 
been often said, in this debate, and I believe it is true, that a 
decided majority of the Senate do believe that Congress has a 
dear constitutional power over slavery in this District But 
while this constitutional right is admitted, it is at the same mo- 
ment attempted effectually to counteract, overthrow, and do 
away with it, by the affirmation of plighted faith, as asserted in 
the resolution before us. 

Now, I have already said I know of nothing to support this af- 
firmation. Neither in the acts of cession, nor in the act of Con- 


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gres8 accepting it, nor in any other document, history, publica- 
tion, or transaction, do I know of a single fact or suggestion sup- 
porting this propo8ition,^or tending to support it Nor has any 
gentleman, so far as I know, pointed out, or attempted to point 
out, any such fact, document, transaction, or other evidence. 
All is left to the general and repeated statement, that such a con- 
dition must have been intended by the States. Of all this I see 
no proof whatever. I see no evidence of any desire on the part 
of the States thus to limit the power of Congress, or thus to 
require a pledge against its exercise. And, indeed, if this were 
made out, the intention of Congress, as well as that of the 
States, must be inquired into. Nothing short of a dear and 
manifest intention of both parties, proved by proper evidence, 
ean amount to plighted faith. The expectation or intent of one 
party, founded on something not provided for nor hinted at in 
the transaction itself, cannot plight the faith of the other party. 

In short, I am altogether unable to see any ground for sup- 
posing that either party to the cession had any mental reserva- 
tion, any unexpressed expectation, or relied on any implied, but 
onmentioned and unsuggested pledge, whatever. By the Con- 
stitution, if a district should be ceded to it for the seat of gov- 
eniment, Congress was to have a right, in express terms, to 
exercise exclusive legislation, in all cases whatsoever. The ces- 
sion was made and accepted in pursuance of this power. Both 
parties knew well what they were doing. Both parties knew 
that by the cession the States surrendered all jurisdiction, and 
Congress acquired all jurbdiction ; and this is the whole trans- 

As to any provision in the acts of cession stipulating for the 
security of property, there is none, excepting only what I have 
already stated; the condition, namely, that no right of indi- 
viduals to the soil should be construed to be transferred, but 
only the jurisdiction. But, no doubt, all rights of property 
ought to be duly respected by Congress, and all other legis- 

Aiid since the subject of compensation to the owners of 
emancipated slaves has been referred to, I take occasion to say, 
that if Congress should think that a wise, just, and politie 
legislation for this District required it to make compensation 
for slaves emancipated here, it has the same constitutional 


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authority to make such compensation as to make grants for 
roads and bridges, almshouses, penitentiaries, and other similar 
objects, in the District A general and absolute power of legis- 
lation carries with it all the necessary and just incidents belong- 
ing to such legislation. 

Mr. Clay having made some remarks in reply, Mr. Webster re- 
joined : — 

The honorable member from Kentucky asks the Senate to 
suppose the opposite case ; to suppose that the seat of govern- 
ment had been fixed in a free State, Pennsylvania, for example ; 
and that Congress had attempted to establish slavery in a dis- 
trict over which, as here, it had thus exclusive legislation. He 
asks whether, in that case. Congress could establish slavery in 
such a place. This mode of changing the question does not, I 
think, vary the argument ; and I answer, at once, that, however 
improbable or improper such an act might be, yet., if the power 
were universal, absolute, and without restriction, it might un- 
questionably be so exercised. No limitation being expressed or 
intimated in the grant itself, or any other proceeding of the 
parties, none could be implied. 

And in the other cases, of forts, arsenals, and dock-yards, if 
Congress has exclusive and absolute legislative power, it must, 
of course, have the power, if it could be supposed to be guilty 
of such folly, whether proposed to be exercised in a district 
within a free State, to establish slavery, or in a district in a slave 
State, to abolish or regulate it. If it be a district over which 
Congress has, as it has in this District, unlimited power of legis- 
lation, it seems to me that whatever would stay the exercise of 
this power, in either case, must be drawn from discretion, from 
reasons of justice and true policy, from those high considerations 
which ought to influence Congress in questions of such extreme 
delicacy and importance ; and to all these considerations I am 
willing, and always shall be willing, I trust, to give full weight 
But I cannot, in conscience, say that the power so clearly con- 
fened on Congress by the Constitution, Jts a power to be exer- 
cised, like others, at its own discretion, is immediately taken 
away again by an implied faith that it shall not be exercised 


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Mr. Webster submitted, on the 17th of January, 1838, the following 
resolution : — 

" Resolved^ That the Secretary of the Treasury be requested to ob- 
tain information, and lay the same before the Senate, with as little delay 
as possible, respecting any payments of pensions, by the late pension 
agent of Boston, or of fishing bounties, recently made by the collector at 
Boston, in bills of the Commonwealth Bank of that city ; and the whole 
amount of such payments ; and that he further inform the Senate by 
what authority or direction payment of such pensions and bounties has 
been made in such bills ; and whether any, and, if any, how much, of 
the public money of the United States is in deposit at said bank ; and, 
if any of such money be therein deposited, at what time or times such 
deposits were made." 

On this resolution Mr. Webster spoke as follows : — 

In presenting this resolution, I feel it to be my duty to call the 
attention of the Senate to the circumstances here alluded to, at 
the earliest opportunity, in order to the institution of an official 
inquiry into the facts of the case, and to obtain information 
with respect to the manner in which the duty of public officers 
has been discharged, in reference to the causes by which a 
severe loss has been made to fall upon a large number of indus- 
trious and meritorious citizens. I do not submit this resolu- 
tion for inquiry on the ground of mere newspaper rumor. I 
have received letters from highly respectable private sources, in- 
fonning me of the general facts of the case. I understand the 
case to be, that, at the period when the fishing bounties became 

* Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 17th of January, 
1838, in relation to the Commonwealth Bank, Boston. 



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due, — money well and hardly earned, by a laborious, indnstri- 
OU8, and worthy class of citizens, — application for payment was 
made to the collector at Boston, he being the officer charged on 
the part of the government with the duty and business of pay- 
ing this money. That officer paid the fishermen, not as the 
law directs, in specie, or bills equivalent to specie, but in the 
bills of this now broken bank, or in checks upon it, which checks, 
of course, it was known would not be paid in specie. I have 
been given to understand that this officer refused to pay the 
bounty due in treasury-notes, when asked to do so ; and that he 
refused also to pay the money in specie, although requested; 
and that, substantially and in effect, the parties entitled to pay- 
ment were put to the option of taking the paper of this bank, or 
of taking nothing at all. This is my information. 

I hold in my hand a letter from one of the most considerable 
fishing towns in the State, Marblehead, and I am thereby in- 
formed that, very shortly before this bank failed, that is, within 
a week or two, the money due from government to these fisher- 
men was paid in the manner described, a large amount of it 
entirely in the bills and notes of this bank. The whole amount 
of bills of this bank paid out by the government officer on the 
part of the government is unknown to me. My letter states it 
at ten thousand dollars in Marblehead alone ; and I have heard 
of similar payments in other towns ; the whole amounting, at 
report says, to fifty or a hundred thousand dollars, and paid out 
when the bank was on the eve of a total crash, and within a few 
days of its failure. 

Well, Sir, when the money in these large quantities had been 
paid out, the bank failed ; and all that these poor fishermen have 
received in payment from the United States is now dead on 
their hands. 

I wish that a proper inquiry should be made by Congress 
into these allegations, and for this object I have drawn the at- 
tention of the Senate to the circumstances of the case, with a 
view to the obtaining of information on two points ; — 1st As 
to the facts ; how far the public officer of the government has 
been engaged in paying out the notes of this bank for the dues 
of the United States; and 2dly. As to the authority; that is, 
by what legal authority the officer of the United States govern- 
ment has made such payments, and whether it was done by the 


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diieetion of the Secretary of the Treasury, or whether it was per* 
mitied and allowed by him. 

However much gentlemen may differ in opinion as to the res- 
olntion of 1816, whether that resolution is the law of the land, 
or whether it be a mere recommendation or admonition, as 
some have maintained, though I myself have always considered 
it to be a law, •— however that question may be settled, I have 
thought that the law now existing, respecting payments by the 
government, is at least clear and indisputable ; so that no one 
would venture to defend the act of the government, in paying in 
notes of banks known to be of less value than specie. 

I beg to refer to the solemn enactment of Congress, made 
only two years ago. It will be found in the second section of 
the appropriation UU of the 14th of April, 1836, and is as fol* 
lows: — 

" Sec. 2. And he it further enacted^ That bereaAer no bank-note 
of less denomination than ten dollars, and that from and aAer the third 
day of March, Anno Domini eighteen hundred and thirty-seven, no bank- 
note of less denomination than twenty dollars, shall be offered in pay- 
Rient in any case whatsoever in which money is to be paid by the Unit- 
ed States or the Post-Office Department ; nor shall any bank-note of any 
denomination be so offered, unless the same shall be payable, and paid 
on demand, in gold or silver coin, at the place where issued, and which 
shall not be equivalent to specie at the place where offered, and con- 
vertible into gold or silver upon the spot, at the will of the holder, and 
without delay or loss to him ; Provided^ That nothing herein contained 
shall be construed to make any thing but gold or silver a legal tender by 
an individual, or by the United States." 

Will any gentleman rise up and say, in the very teeth of the 
law, that the passing of these large amounts of notes, known 
not to be equivalent to specie, and immediately befcNre the failure 
of the bank, was legal, was justifiable, either on the part of gov- 
ernment or its officers ? The law expressly says, that no pub* 
lie officer shall offer in payment bank-bills not equivalent to 
specie on the spot where they are offered. Will it be said that 
the United States officer in the present instance did not know 
that these notes were not equivalent to specie ? This is not 
possible ; he knew that this bank, like others, had not paid specie 
since May last, and that since that time its bills have not bee» 
eqnif alent to specie. Or will it be said he did not know tbe^ 


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law ? Certainly the Secretary of the Treasury must have drawn 
the attention of all disbursing officers to this act of Ck)ngress. 

I think it possible that it may be said, in excuse of this trans- 
action, that these poor fishermen and pensioners took this now 
worthless money voluntarily, or at their own option. But 
whether the individual who is to be paid may be made willing 
to take such irredeemable paper or not, the law is direct and 
peremptory, and prohibits the officer from offering it The con- 
sent f an individual, therefore, to take it, especially when he 
can get nothing else, will not justify that violation in any quar- 
ter. But what consent can that be esteemed, what voluntary 
taking is there in such cases, where a man, because he cannot 
get all that is due to him, is compelled to take part, rather than 
have none? What is there voluntary about it? This is co- 
ercion, and not consent. Congress has not yet admitted the 
notion, and I hope it never will, that the receipt of paper under 
par is voluntary, whenever officers of government can prevail on 
those who are entitled to the payment of money from the United 
States to take it, under the penalty of getting nothing. The 
letter, indeed, says that specie had been asked for, and was 
refused ; but whether asked for or not, or whether the fishermen 
knew they were entitled to specie or not, it is equally the duty 
of the officer to refrain from ofiering these bills. I therefore 
wish to know by what authority government, or the officer of 
government, dispensed with the law; by what authority they 
repealed the statute, or disregarded it; by what license they 
obtained the dispensing power. 

It is a notorious fact that no bank paper is, in the present 
state of the currency, equivalent to specie ; it is refused by the 
government, which demands and obtains specie, or treasury- 
notes, for debts due to itself. How, then, can the collector of Bos- 
ton be justified in passing bad money in fulfilment of one of the 
most sacred duties of the government, namely, the payment of 
the pensions of the aged and destitute Revolutionary pensioners ? 

It is said (though I do not myself know the fact to be so) 
that there was a large aihount of United States money in that 
bank. This is also a subject on which I am desirous that some 
information should be given to the Senate, for I have heretofore 
understood that the public money had all, or nearly all, been 
drawn out of the banL I wish to know when, and by whom, 


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this sum, now undcrdtood to be there, was deposited, or how it 
came there. 

I do not wish to anticipate debate on the treajsury system bill, 
which is to be brought forward a fortnight hence ; but I will, 
nevertheless, make a few remarks upon two points which I wish, 
as being important truths, may be kept in the constant view of 
Congress and the country. 

The first is, that every notion and idea of justice requires that 
there should be one mode of payment by the United States to 
all who are entitled to payments from government or its officers. 
There is, at present, no uniform medium. Even the treasury- 
notes, which are issued to public creditors, are not all of equal 
value. Some of them carry interest at the rate of five per cent., 
some at the rate of two per cent, and some at the rate of one 
mill per cent. An interest of one mill ! ! I cannot but consider 
it in the highest degree derogatory to the dignity and character 
of any government to create such a difference in its payments, 
whereby the public creditor receives a more or less valuable 
compensation, not according to his just demands, but according 
to his skill in making a bargain, according to the facility or diffi- 
culty of putting him off with a larger or smaller amount. 

The other point which I wish now and always to urge is, that, 
in my opinion, however desirable it may be, as some imagine it, 
to have gold and silver for government use, so long as there is a 
paper circulation in the country it is not possible, in the nature 
of things, that government can so conduct its transactions with 
the people, as to keep itself safe, and keep them safe, while the 
general currency of the country is depreciated or deranged. In 
other words, there can be no safety, there can be no security nor 
confidence, even in transactions with government, except by 
reforming and restoring the whole currency of the country, and 
establishing a general and uniform medium of payment. It is 
not possible for government, with any practical utility, to have 
a sound currency onl^ for itself; there must be such a currency 
for the people, and for the country generally. It will not be 
possible for the government to stand apart, and strengthen itself 
and take care of itself, and those who deal with it, and secure 
its own safety and theirs, while it neglects to provide for the 
safety, security, and well-being of the whole country. 

I will add nothing to these remarks, further than to say, that 


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in thia case, and in all similar cases, if loss shall turn out to 
have been suffered by individuals in consequence of illegal pay- 
ments made by officers of government, or in consequence of 
payments made in a depreciated medium, if the officers them- 
selves are not liable to make it good, I, for one, shall vote to 
make good every such deficiency, to the utmost farthing, oat of 
the treasury. 

I now. Sir, read to the Senate one of the letters to which I 
have alluded, and it is at the service of every Senator to see and 
examine for himself. 

'' Sir : You will, I am satisfied, excuse the liberty I take in address- 
ing you these few lines, the subject being of the utmost importance to 
my fellow-townsmen. The government have lately paid to the fisher- 
men of this town their bounty money, amounting to something like 
920,000. Something like 9 10,000 of this amount was paid in Com- 
monwealth Bank bills, the remaining ( 10,000 in bills of other banks. 
Now, Sir, just look at the distress that is likely to come upon this poor 
town by this specie-paying government of ours. The Commonweahb 
Bank has stopped, and 9 100 of its notes would not buy a loaf of bread. 
The collector of Boston was solicited by a number of gentlemen of this 
town for specie, or even treasury-notes. No ; he would pay it in ao 
other way but by a check on the Commonwealth Bank. This, Sir, is a 
hard case for the poor fishermen of this town, and I am satisfied yoa 
will do what lies in your power (if any thing can be done) for their re- 
lief. The poor widow and Revolutionary soldier come in also for their 
part in the distress of the town ; many of them, who have received pen- 
sions, have been paid in Commonwealth Bank bills, and, having full re- 
liance upon the government, have kept the money they had paid them 
by the government, believing that the government would not pay them 
in bad money. 

" I am, dear Sir, your obedient servant** 

In Senate, February 6, 1838. 

Mr. Webster rose to move that the report of the Secretary of 
the Treasury, in answer to the resolution of the Senate, calling 
for information respecting the amount of the public moneys in 
the Commonwealth Bank at Boston, be referred to the Com- 
mittee on Finance. 


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In this report, said Mr. Webster, the Secretary Bays that no in- 
stractions were ever given by the Treasury Department to tender 
bank-notes of any denomination to public creditors or officers ; 
and he says, at the same time, that it was impracticable to pay 
all the public creditors, especially on the sea-board, in specie, as 
sufficient could not be collected. The law, therefore, has been 
plainly one way, and the practice the other. The act of Con- 
gress says, that no bills not equivalent to specie shall be offered in 
payment; and I commend this report to the particular and care- 
ful perusal of those who suppose they can maintain a specie 
currency for government, while they suffer the general paper cur- 
rency of the country to be depreciated. In my opinion, the state 
of things detailed in this report is a correct sample, or a foretaste, 
of what we shall experience, on a large scale, when the sub- 
treasury bill shall have become a law, and a nominal specie cur- 
rency, for revenue purposes, shall have been established. Al- 
though the law now existing is precise and positive, that gov- 
ernment officers shall pay all public creditors in specie, or bills 
equivalent to specie, and shall offer them nothing else, yet the 
Secretary says that it has been impracticable to obtain specie 
for this purpose, either of the banks or the merchants ; and this 
he says at a time when there is supposed to be a large quantity 
of specie in the country. Here, then, is exactly such a state of 
things as we propose to establish by sub-treasuries and an ex- 
clusive specie currency. We see here precisely how the system 
will work. While there are banks (and banks there will be), the 
specie will inevitably get into the banks ; and whenever any dis- 
aster happens to the banks, so that they suspend specie pay- 
ments, neither the government nor the merchants can get the 
specie out Dues to government, therefore, will not be received 
in specie, and dues from government will not be paid in specie. 
On the other hand, if the banks maintain their credit, and re- 
deem their notes in specie on demand, an exclusive specie cur- 
rency will be useless and unnecessary. The result of all will 
be, that an exclusive specie currency will be always either un- 
necessary or impracticable. It will be a superfluity or an im- 

The following sums of public money appear, by the Secreta- 
ry's report, to be now in deposit in the Commonwealth Bank, at 


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let. The sum standing to the credit of the treasurer of the 

United States, $ 39,639 

2d. Sum reported as standing to the credit of the collector, 65,941 

3d. Amount to the credit of the late pension agency, . . 154,848 
4th. Amount standing to the credit of the commissioners for 

building the custom-house, 70,000 

5th. Amount to the credit of Major Craig, Ordnance Depart- 
ment, 1,119 

6th. Amount to the credit of the Post-Office Department, . 7,644 

7th. Amount to the credit of the Paymaster-Greneral, • . 346 

Making a total of • 339,537 

The Secretary represents these deposits to have been made, 
generally, before the suspension of specie payments ; but that 
$ 150,000 was received by the bank in October and December 
last, on drafts which had been issued by the treasury in favor of 
the bank before the suspension. No money has been directed 
to be deposited in the bank since the suspension. It is not 
stated what security exists for the payment of this large sum, 
or what is the chance of its payment. 

As to the manner in which the bank paid pensions and boun- 
ties, I find attached to the report a letter from the president of 
the bank, in which he says, that " in all cases where the bills of 
this bank, or any other bank, have been paid by this bank to 
pensioners, or their attorneys, they were voluntarily received by 
them " ! The nature of these voluntary receipts of payments 
in depreciated paper has been sufficiently shown by the letter 
and the affidavit which I have laid before the Senate. The 
affidavit seems not to be deficient in facts. 

The statement is : — 

" I, Asa Pickering, of Bellingham, in the Commonwealth of Massa- 
chusetts, residing at present in Boston, as a member of the Legislature, 
on oath do declare and say, that, on the third day of October now last 
past, I called at the office of the Pension Agent in the city of Boston, 
to receive a pension due to my father, Benjamin Pickering, for Revolu- 
tionary services. He already had on hand a quantity of the bills of the 
Commonwealth Bank, and instructed me to procure other money, if 
possible. I called, and was requested to step into a room to make the 
necessary affidavit, for which I was charged, and paid in specie, twenty- 
five cents. I then received a check for sixty-three dollars, and was 


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directed to present the check at the opposite counter. I did so, and had 
tendered to me a fifty dollar bill of the Commonwealth Bank, also a ten 
and a three dollar bill of the same bank. I declined receiving them, 
and stated that I wanted something better. I told them at least I wanted 
a litde specie ; I should like the thirteen dollars in specie. They told 
me I must take that or nothing. I asked them for the ten or the three 
in specie ; both were refused. I then asked at least for the twenty-five 
cents in specie which I had just paid, and it was refused. I then read 
one of their bills to them, and asked if they would pay old Revolutioners 
in nothing but lies. I was obliged to take their bills, contrary to my 
wishes and instructions. 


This, too, is a fair specimen of what will happen hereafter, 
when we shall have nominally a system of exclusive specie 
payments and receipts. Forty statutes could not forbid pay- 
ments of bank-notes more distinctly and peremptorily than the 
present law forbids all payments in depreciated bank-notes. Yet 
here it is admitted, both by the disbursing officers and by the 
Secretary himself, that such depreciated bank-notes have been 
offered in payment, and received ; although the very offering of 
Ihem, that is, the act of proposing to make payments in such 
notes, is in the teeth of the act of Congress. So it will be here- 
after. The law will be positive that nothing but gold and silver 
shall be offered ; yet paper will be offered, and often taken ; and 
just such contests will arise as that which arose in this case ; 
the government officers insisting that the paper was voluntarily 
received, and the party receiving it, on the other hand, insisting, 
and making oath, that he resisted the receipt of it as long as he 
oould, and took it at last simply because he could get hothing 
else. I think any man must be short-sighted who does not per- 
ceive that occurrences of this soif will be constantly happening 
onder a system in which the government uses, or pretends to 
use, one currency, and the people another. 

But, Sir, there is another important matter disclosed in this 
report, to which I wish to call the attention of the Senate. It 
is known that, during the existence of the Bank of the United 
States, the United States pensions were paid by that bank, 
without cost or charge ; and as the bank was a safe depositary, 
no losses happened to government or to individuals. When the 
bank charter expired. Congress was called on to make some 

VOL. IV. 33 


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other provision for paying pensions, and the act of the 20th of 
April, 1836, was passed. That act prorides that, in future^ 
" payments of pensions shall be made by such persons or corpo* 
rations as the Secretary of War may direct, but no compensaHoi^ 
or allowance shall be made to such persons or corporations for 
making such paym^ents^ without authority of law!^ This act was 
passed under that clause of the Constitution which authorizes 
Congress, by law, to vest the appointment of such inferior officers 
as they think proper in the heads of departments. Under this 
law the Secretary of War appointed these officers, and a list of 
them has been recently sent by him to the Senate. It will 
appear from the report of the War Department, that, like other 
disbursing officers, they hare been called on to give official 
bonds ; and there is no manner of doubt tbat^ to tU intents aad 
purposes, they are officers under the government of the United 

But now as to their pay. The act of the 20tb of April, 1836^ 
(gating the office and providing for the appointment of the offi- 
cers, declares, as I have already said, that no allowance or com- 
pensation shall be made to them, without authority of law. Now, 
Congress has passed no further law on the subject; and yet 
how stands the matter of their pay ? 

It will be remembered that, in 1834, the President, or Secre- 
tary of War, before the bank charter expired, undertook to 
transfer the pension funds from the Bank of the United States 
to the deposit banks ; and on that occasion those deposit banks 
v^rere told, as will be seen by this repcMrt, that^ in consideration of 
the benefits which they would derive from the deposits^ no com- 
mission or salary would be allowed. The same course was 
adopted after the act of 1836 passed ; so that^ from that time to 
the present, pension agents, appointed by the Secretary of War, 
get their pay by the use of the government funds in their handa 
And I find, by inquiry at the proper source^ that the general rule 
id, to advance the necessary funds six months before they will 
be needed ; so that ihe agent has the use of the money for ihsi 
p^od; and when the time comes for paying it to the pen- 
sioners he pays it, and immediately receives from the treasury 
an advance for the next six months ; so that he has, the w/hole 
year round, the use of a sum of money equal to one halu the 
whole annual amount of pensions paid at his office. F'^oris- 


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•lAnce, the whole annual amount of pensions paid at Boston 
is three hundred and twenty thousand dollars, or thereabouts. 
One half of this sum is one hundred and sixty thousand dol- 
lars ; and the agent, as his compensation for paying the pen- 
iions, actually enjoys the use of this sum the whole year. Sup^ 
pose the use of the money to be worth six per cent, per annumi 
tke compensation thus made to the pension agent in Bostoa im 
more than nine thousand dollars. 

So in New Hampshire, where there are two pension agenciesi 
one at Portsmouth, and one at Concord. At the Portsmouth 
agency, thirty-three thousand dollars, or thereabouts, are aaani* 
ally paid out The agent, therefore, has usually on band ooe 
half of this sum, say fifteen thousand five hundred dollars, th^ 
krterest of which would be nearly a thousand dollars. At 
tiie Concord pension office, the amount of annual payments is 
sixty-six thousand dollars. One half of this sum being usu*- 
ally on hand, the agent receives for discharging the duties of 
his office the use of that one half, say of thirty-three thou- 
lattd dollars, which, at the rate of six per cent, per annum, 
amounts to nineteen hundred or two thousand dollars. These 
BKuns are taken from official statements, and I believe are cof- 
rect; aod the other general facts are obtained from authentic 

1i will probably strike the Senate, in the first place, that these 
fates of compensation are exceedingly large, especially in these 
days of professed economy and reform ; and, in the next place, 
all will admit that this mode of making compensation is the 
worst in the world, as it keeps the funds of the government 
always at hazard. How this mode of making compensaiiojfiy 
•r this amount of compensation, can be reconciled to the words 
trf the act of Congress, which declare that there shall be no ooiB- 
jiensation without authority of law, I hope some gentleman will 
oodertake to explain. 

In most eases, but I believe not in all, the list will show 
these agents are presidents of State banks ; but the appoint- 
ments, neventheless, are personal appointments, and the banks 
themselves are not responsible for the agents' fidelity. As I 
lutve akeady «aid, the agents, like mother disbursing officers of 
governioent, give bonds for tiie due discharge of the duties 
tf their office. I trust, Sir, that the Committee on Fiaauo^ 


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will see the necessity of some further legal provision on this 

Since I am speaking on this topic, I will take leave to make 
a remark or two on a personal matter. The Globe of Saturday, 
still pursuing a course of meddling with the private concerns of 
public men, which course, nevertheless, it admits is exceedingly 
despicable, reiterates charges of my having had paper dishon- 
ored at this Commonwealth Bank. The obvious object of this, 
as of the former article, it is evident, is to hold out an appesur- 
ance that I owe the bank, or have owed it in times past I 
think it very likely, that, by the time this statement of the Globe 
gets a hundred miles from Washington, it will be so amplified 
as to represent me as an acknowledged debtor to the bank to a 
great amount; and by the time it gets over the mountains, the 
failure of the bank will be mainly ascribed, very possibly, to its 
loans to me. I repeat, therefore, that I never owed the bank a 
dollar, so far as I remember, and never had any pecuniary trans- 
action with it whatever. 

The statement is, that a bill drawn by me, and accepted, was 
sent to the bank for collection, and not duly paid by the acceptor. 
It was of course returned upon the drawer, and duly paid and 
taken up by him. All this is very unimportant and innocent; 
but it is stated as if with studious design to represent me as a 
debtor to the bank ; whereas, in the first place, the bank had no 
interest in it whatever ; and, in the second place, it was duly 
paid by the drawer on the acceptor's neglect As to any accept^ 
ance of my own, sent to that bank for collection, being protest- 
ed, I never heard of any such occurrence. If such a thing hap- 
pened, it must have been accidental, and owing to some mistake 
as to the day, which was seasonably corrected. Nor can it be 
true that any note or bill with my name on it was handed over 
to another bank on the failure of this CJommonwealth Bank, un- 
less it was some dead note or bill which had been already paid 
to those who were entitled to receive payment This obvious 
purpose of representing me as a debtor to the bank, or as ever 
having been a borrower at it, is founded in sheer misrepresenta- 
tion and falsehood. 

I perceive that the directors, or officers, of this bank have been 
busying themselves to help out the statements of the Globe ; yet 
no one of them says I ever owed the bank a dollar in the world. 


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They might, I think, be better employed. It has been stated 
publicly that these officers have helped themselves to loans, from 
their own bank, to an amount exceeding the amount of all its 
capital, and then failed, bank and all, leaving a prodigious mass 
of unredeemed paper upon the hands of the public I know not 
how this may be ; but until the charge is cleared up, one should 
think they might find better employment than in attempting to 
bolster up slanderous imputations against their neighbors, and 
attacking people who have not the misfortune to owe them any 

In reply to Mr. Niles, Mr. Webster remarked : — 

The law says, in so many words, that these pension agents 
shall receive no compensation without provision by law ; and 
the Secretary, in making compensation, has of course done it 
without law. I have a right to the fact The Secretary makes 
the appointment, generally, of the president or some other ofli- 
cer of a bank, and the appointment is entirely personal; the 
bond is personal; the bond is directly to the United States; 
and this proves conclusively that the officer is an officer of the 
United States. No bank is named in the bond ; in those which 
I have seen, and I have obtained the common form from the 
office, I do not find that the agent is named or described as 
president or cashier of any bank. The appointment is simply 
of A. B. as agent for paying pensions in a certain place ; and 
A. B. gives his own bond directly to the United States, with sure- 
ties, for the faithful discharge of his duties. If the agent, in any 
case, be connected with any bank, and desire to leave the money 
on deposit in that bank, instead of using it himself, that is mat- 
ter of arrangement between him and the bank. All this makes, 
no difference ; it does not diminish the amount of compensa- 
tion ; it does not change the nature of the office. The agent is 
an officer appointed by authority of law, and acting under 
bonds to the United States, and receiving, as it appears by this 
report, a very large compensation. I have nothing to do now 
with the deposit system ; all I say is, that this kind of manage- 
ment ought not to go on, making, as every one must admit, a 
very great allowance for compensation, far too great. And 
what occasion is there of hazarding all this money ? I speak, 


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however, only of the existing state o{ things, ^ a enfaject which 
the Seoate must perceive requires a remedy. There is a per- 
sonal appointment of a certain officer by law; and therefora 
there is in effect a personal emolument to the amount which I 
h^ve stilted ; at least it is as large as I hf^ve stated it to be at 
Boston, mA may be larg^ elsewhere. 


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Thb following bill to grant preemption rights to actual settlers on the 
public lands being on its passage, yiz. : 

*'A Bill to orant PreImption Rights to Settlers on the 

Public Lands. 
" Beit enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Unit* 
ei States of America in Congress assembled^ That every actual settler 
of the public lands, being the head of a family, or over twenty-one years 
ef age, who was in possession, and a housekeeper by personal residence 
^reon, on or before the Ist day of December, 1837, shall be entitled 
to all the benefits and privilegea of an act entitled ' An Act to grant 
pieemptioQ rights to settlers on the public lands,* approved May 29th, 
1830 ; and the a^d act is hereby revived and continued in force two 
years. Provided^ That where more than one person may have settled 
upon and cultivated any one quarter^aection of land, each one of them 
shall have an equal share or interest in the said quarter-section, but 
shall have no claim, by virtue of this act,^ to any other land : And pro* 
^nded<t always^ That this act shall not be so construed as to give a right 
of preemption to any person or persons in consequence of any settle- 
ment or improvement made before the extinguishment of the Indian title 
to the land on which such settlement or improvement was made, or to 
any land specially occupied or reserved for town lots, or other purposes, 
by authority of Ae United States : And provided further^ That noth- 
ing herein contained shaH be construed to afibct any of the selections 
of public lands for the purposes of education, the use of salt springs, or 
f<^ any other purpose, which may have beeo or may be made by any 
Slate, under existing laws of the United States; hut this act shall net 
ht so eonatrued as to deprive those of the b^eflts of this act, who haiw 

* Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 29th of January, 
M9, on the Preemption Bill. 


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inhabited, according to its provisions, certain fractions of tlie public 
lands within the land district of Palmyra, in the State of Missouri, which 
were reserved from sale in consequence of the surveys of Spanish and 
French grants, but are found to be without the lines of said grants " ; 
Mr. Webster rose and spoke as follows : — 

Whatever opposition may be made to this bill, in my opin- 
ion some provision of this nature is necessary and proper. I 
have therefore supported it, and I shall now vote for its final 

Although entirely indisposed to adopt any measure which 
may prejudice the public interest, or trifle with this great sub- 
ject, and opposed at all times to all new schemes and projects, 
I still think the time has come when we must, from necessity, 
propriety, and justice, make some provision for the existing 
case. We are not now at the point when preemption rights are 
first to be granted ; nor can we recall the past The state of 
things now actually existing must be regarded. To this our 
serious attention is summoned. There are now known to be 
many thousands of settlers on public lands, either not yet sur- 
veyed, or of which the surveys are not yet returned, or which, if 
surveyed, are not yet brought into market for sale. 

The first question naturally is. How did they come there? 
How did this great number of persons get on the public lands ? 
And to this question it may be truly answered, that they have 
gone upon the lands under the encouragement of previous acts 
of Congress. They have settled and built houses, and made 
improvements, in the persuasion that Congress would deal with 
them in the same manner as it has, in repeated instances, dealt 
with others. This has been the universal sentiment and expec- 
tation. Others have settled on the public lands, certainly with 
less encouragement from acts of Congress than these settlers 
have had, and yet have been allowed a preemption right. These 
settlers, therefore, have confidently looked for the same privi- 

Another circumstance is fit to be mentioned. Very large 
purchases of the public lands are known to have been made 
in 1835 and 1836. These purchases exceeded the quantity ne- 
cessary for actual settlement; and they were made, in many 
cases, in large tracts, by companies or by single proprietors, who 


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purchased for purposes of investment, and with a view to retain 
the lands until their value should be enhanced by the general 
settlement and improvement of the country. These purchases 
would be, of course, of the l)est and freshest lands in the market; 
that is, they would be in the most recent surveys, or, in other 
words, in the surveyed districts most advanced in the interior. 
Now, I have understood from good authority, that it has often 
happened in the Northwest, (of the Southwest I know little,) 
that persons disposed to purchase and settle on the frontier 
have, in many instances, found themselves unable to buy to 
their satisfaction, either of government or individuals. Govern- 
ment had sold the best lands to companies or to individual pro- 
prietors, and these last were disposed to keep, and not to sell; or 
they or their agents were either unknown, or were living in dis- 
tant parts of the country, so that application to purchase could 
not readily be made to them. 

These circumstances, there can be no doubt, have created a 
new incentive to pass beyond the surveys set down on the pub- 
lic domain, and trust to Congress for a preemption right, such 
as has been granted in previous instances. The result of these 
causes is, that settlements have become quite extensive, and the 
number of people very large. In that part of Wisconsin which 
lies west of the Mississippi, there are supposed to be from thirty 
to fifty thousand inhabitants. Over this region Congress has 
extended civil government, established courts of law, and en- 
couraged the building of villages and towns ; and yet the land 
has not been brought into the market for sale, except it may be 
small quantities for the sites of villages and towns. In other 
parts of Wisconsin a similar state of things exists, especially on 
and near the border of Lake Michigan, where numerous settle- 
ments have been made and commercial towns erected, some of 
them ahready of considerable importance, but where the title to 
the land still remains in the government Similar cases exist in 
Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, and probably also in the South- 
western States. 

Now the practical question is. What is to be done in these 
cases ? What are we to do with those settlers, their improve- 
ments, and the lands on which they live? Is there any one 
who would propose or desire that these lands should be put up 
at open auction, improvements and all, and sold to the highest 


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bidder, wHbout any regard whatever to the interest or protection 
of the settlers ? For my part, I could propose no such thing, 
nor by any means consent to any such thing. 

Nor do I suppose that there oould be such an auction, and 
that other persons could attend and bid at it freely, and overbid 
'Are actual «ettlers for their own settlements and improvenaient8» 
without disturbcmoe and violation of the public peace. Nor 
would a dollar of money, in my judgment, be realized by the 
treasury by such a course of proceeding, beyond what would be 
Teceired for the same lands under this law. As to the general 
justice of the bill, its policy, or the degree of indulgence which 
it holds out to those who have become setUers, it ought to h^ 

1. That it applies only to those who have now already set- 
tled on the public lands. And I am quite willing to concur with 
others in carrying out the recommendations of the President's 
fnessage, by adopting such measures, for the future, as may be 
Db«mgM wise and reasonable, and as shall prevent the recurrence 
lierec^ter of any necessity for laws like this. 

8. The bill makes no donation or gratuity. It grants only a 
preemption right; a right of previous purchase, at the price for 
wiitch the greater part of the public lands has been, and now ja, 
actually sold. 

S. It gives this right lOiily to the extent of one quarter-section; 
net more liian a reasonable quantity for a farm, in the estimia- 
■^on of the uihabitante of these new and vast regions. 

4. It gives the right only to heads of families, or householders, 
actually settled and residing on the tract 

And, in my opinion, it is much in favor of this bill, that what 
it does grant it grants {where the requisite proof is made out,) at 
once and for ever, without mischievous qualifications, and con- 
ditions subsequent, such as formed part of the bill of last year. 

It has been proposed to amend this bill so as to limit its ben- 
efits to native or naturalized citizens of the United States. Al- 
though I have heretofore been disposed to favor such a proposi- 
tion, yet, on the whole, I think it ought not to prevail; because 
9uoh a limitation has been altogether unknown in our general 
system of land sales; and to introduce it here, where we are 
^kiting on rights akeady ^oquived^ woi^ be both invidious and 


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It has been proposed, also, so to amend the lull a» to require 
that the settler, in addition to the dollar and a quarter per acre, 
should pay one half the actual value of the land above that 
sum ; this value to be ascertained by appraisers, appointed by 
the register of the land-office. I could not agree to this amend- 
ment; because, in the first place, we have never adopted the 
principle of selling lands on appraisement ; and, secondly and 
mainly, because, if these settlers have had any ground or reason 
to expect a preemption right from Congress (which is the sub- 
stantiat foundation of the bill), they have had, and now have, 
reason to expect it on the same terms on which it has been 
granted to others. 

Mr. President, that there may be some undeserving persons 
among these settlers, I do not doubt That the advantages of 
this bill may be enjoyed, in some cases, by those who are not 
actual settlers, with the honest, bondflde purpose of permanent 
residence, is very probable. But I believe the great majority ct 
the cases to which the bill will apply will be such as ought to be 
relieved. I believe the bill is the readiest way of quieting these 
titles and possessions, which the public interest requires should, 
in some way, be quieted without further delay. Indeed, no 
eouise is proposed, but either to pass this bill, or to bring the 
lands at once to public auction, open to the biddings of aU. 
This last course, I am persuaded, would result in no gain what- 
ever to the treasury, whilst it might be attended with serious in- 
eonvenience to the public, and would be sure to throw whole 
neighborhoods, villages, and counties into a state of much ex- 
dtement, much perplexity, and much distress* Both for the gen- 
eral interests of the country, and for the interest and protection 
of the settler, I am of opinion that the bill ought to pass. 

In answer to Mr. Clay, Mr. Webster said : — 

Nothwithstanding the surprise which it has pleased the hon- 
orable member from Kentucky to express at my support of this 
bill, I shall continue that support; but I do not feel it neces- 
sary to go into any elaborate defence of my vote. The bill, it 
is well ascertained, will pass the Senate by a large majority. 
Of its fate elsewhere I know nothing, either certainly or prob- 
ably. But since no doubt is entertained of its passage here, i 
have desired, and still desire, only to say so much as may show 
the ground of my own opinion in its favor. 


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Sir, the difference between the member from Kentucky and 
myself, on this occasion, is plain and distinct It is precisely 

He is altogether against the preemptive right He is for car- 
rying into operation the law, as it standi, and for giving it effect 
over the lands on which these settlers live, in the same way as 
over other public lands. He is for putting all these lands up to 
open auction, and selling them to the highest bidder, letting the 
settler take the consequence. He says there should be an auc- 
tion, and a free auction ; and he argues, with that consistency 
and cohesion of ideas which belong to him, that if there is to 
be a public auction, as he insists there ought to be, then there 
must be, and ought to be, a perfectly free competition ; that it 
should be as open to one man to bid as another ; that no man, 
or men, ought to be privileged or favored ; that it is ridiculous 
to talk of an auction at which one man may bid and anoth» 
may not; or an auction at which some bidders are told that 
others must have preference. He, therefore, is for a free sale, 
open to every body, and to be conducted in that manner which 
shall insure the receipt of the greatest sum of money into the 

Now, I say at once, plainly and distinctly, that this is not my 
object I have other views. I wish, in the first place, to pre- 
serve the peace of the frontier ; and I wish, also, to preserve and 
to protect the reasonable rights of the settiers ; because I think 
they have rights which deserve to be protected. These are my 
objects. Sir, if we could order an auction here, in this city, or 
ebewhere, out of all possible control of the settiers, and far from 
all fear of any influence of theirs, and could here sell the lands 
they live on, and their improvements, for their full value, and 
put the proceeds of the whole into the treasury, it would be the 
very last thing I should ever do. I have no wish to make gain 
and profit out of the labors of these settiers, and carry that 
gain into the treasury. I did not suppose any man would desire 
that I did not suppose there was any one who would consent 
that the increased value of these lands, caused by the labor, the 
toil, and the sweat of the setUers, should be turned to the ad- 
vantage of the national treasury. Certainly, Sir, I shall oppose 
all proceedings leading to such a result Yet the member from 
Kentucky has nothing to propose, but to sell the lands at auo- 


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tion for the most they will bring, at a sale which he says ought 
to be perfectly free and open to every body, and to carry the pro- 
ceeds into the treasury. Let the sales go on ; that is his doc* 
Irine. Let the laws take their course, he says, since we live un^ 
d«r a government of laws. Have a sale, make it free and open, 
and make the most of it Let the government take care that 
all persons who wish to bid shall be at equal liberty to do 30 ; 
and that no combination, no privilege, no preemption, be suffered 
to exist. 

Now, Sir, in my opinion, all this is what we cannot do, if we 
would ; and what we ought not to do, if we could. I do not be- 
lieve we can have an auction, under existing circumstances, such 
as the gentleman insists upon. The known condition of things 
Tenders it impossible. The honorable member thinks otherwise. 
He will not agree, he says, that the President, with the militia 
and the army, cannot protect the authorities in maintaining a 
feir and open sale. Sir, is it discreet, is it prudent, to refer to 
such a course as that? Is it not greatly wiser, and greatly 
better, to remove the occasion, which may be done without in- 
jury to the government, and in perfect consistency with the 
rights of others, than to think of such measures as have been 
suggested ? For one, I disclaim all such policy. I place my 
support of the bill upon the indispensable necessity of doing 
something ; upon the impolicy of longer delay ; upon the fair 
claims of the settlers to all which this bill proposes for their ben- 
efit; and upon the impolicy, the injustice, and, I may say, the 
impossibility, of other courses which have been suggested. 

The honorable member recalls our recollection to the fact, that 
the Senate has refused to adopt any prospective measure to pre- 
^nt this evil for the future. It has done so, so far as the vote 
on the proposed amendment went. But what then ? Because 
a majority is not inclined, now, to provide for the future, is that 
a reason why we should make no provision for the present ? 

Sir, the true tendency of this bill will be to prevent, or to mit^ 
igate, those scenes at the public sales, which have been so often 
^uded to. If you pass this bill, the settler will go to the land 
oflice, prove his preemption right, and get his certificate. He 
will then have no business, so far as his homestead is concerned, 
at the public sales. He will be quieted in his possession, and at 
pwwje. H you do not pass it, he must attend the public sales ; 

VOL. IV. 34 


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the whole country must be there ; every man must be present, 
because every man's home is to be sold over his head ; and how 
is it possible that much feeling and great excitement should not 
prevail among a large multitude assembled for such a purpose ? 
Business, to be conducted under such circumstances, can take 
but one course ; and we all know what that is. This bill dimin- 
ishes temptation to form combinations, or to do any unlawful 
or irregular act It is a bill of peace and repose. It is to secure 
men in their possessions ; to quiet them in their own homes ; to 
give to them that sense of security, that consciousness of safe 
ownership, which makes men's houses and homesteads dear and 
valuable to them. 

In further reply to Mr. Clay, Mr. Webster said : — 

I do not intend, Mr. President, to go further into this debate 
than is necessary to keep my own course clear. Other gentle- 
men act upon the result of their own reasoning ; I act on the 
result of mine, and wish to explain and defend that result, so 
far as it may require defence or explanation. 

I have placed this bill on the fair right of the settler, founded 
on the encouragement which Congress has held out by previous 
laws. I have asked whether this right of the honest, bona fide 
settler is to be disregarded and sacrificed. The honorable mem- 
ber from Kentucky now answers, that this right will be amply 
protected at the sale ; that nobody will bid against an honest, 
bond fide settler; that at the sale all these cases will be carefully 
sifted and examined, and justice done to each case respective- 
ly. Why, Sir, this is a good deal inconsistent, I think, with 
the character of those sales, as we have heard them described. 
If what has been said of them be true, they are the last places, 
and the last occasions, for any thing to be sifted or examined. 
The gentleman himself has said, that at these sales it is enough 
to cry out "Settler's right!" to prevent all interference. No, 
Sir ; it is not at these sales that sifting and examination are to 
be had. Examination can only be had at the land office, be- 
fore public officers, on sworn proofs, and according to the pro- 
visions of this bill. Such an examination as that can be had, if 
the officers will do their duty ; and the result will do justice to 
the government, and justice to the settlers. 

Much has been said of the general character of these setUers. 


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I have no extensive information, Sir, on that point, and had not 
intended to say any thing upon it. But it has so happened 
that I have recently been in the Northwest, and have met, for 
a short time, with many of these settlers ; and, since they have 
been spoken of here with so much harshness, I feel bound to 
say that, so far as my knowledge of them goes, they do not 
deserve it Undoubtedly, Sir, they are trespassers in the contem- 
plation of law. They know that very well. They are on the 
public lands without title ; but then they say that the course 
of the government heretofore has been such as to induce and 
encourage them to go where they are, and that they are ready 
and willing to do all that government has required from others 
in similar circumstances ; that is, to pay for the lands at the 
common price. They have the general character of frontiers- 
men; they are hardy, adventurous, and enterprising. They 
have come from far, to establish themselves and families in new 
abodes in the West. They appeared to me to be industriou& 
and laborious ; and I saw nothing in their character or conduct 
that should justly draw upon them expressions of contumely and 

In answer to Mr. Davis, Mr. Webster said : — 

As I have the misfortune, on this occasion, to differ with my 
colleague, (for whom I entertain so much deference and so much 
warm regard, that it is always painful for me to differ with him,) 
I might naturally be supposed to be desirous of replying to his 
remarks at some length. At this late hour, however, I shall 
forego that privilege. I will confine what I have to say to two 
or three points. 

In the first place, I wish to say that I cannot concede to my 
colleague, and those who act with him on this occasion, the van- 
tage-ground which he and they seem to claim. 1 cannot agree 
that they only are acting for the whole people; and that we, 
who are in favor of this bill, are acting for a few only. My 
opinion is, and my ground is, that the interest of the whole 
country, as well as the just protection of the settlers, requires the 
passage of this bilL The whole country has an interest in qui- 
eting these claims ; the bill proposes to quiet them, and, in that 
respect^ is for the advantage of the whole country. 

In the next place, I wish to observe that I do not think it just 


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to say of this bill, that it proposes to give away the public lands; 
to exercise a gratuitous bounty to the settlers ; to make a mere 
gift of the public property to a few, at the expense of the many. 
The bill proposes no gift at all ; it bestows no gratuitous boun- 
ty. It grants exactly what it proposes to grant, and that is, a 
right of purchase, a preemption ; the privilege of retaining the 
quarter-section upon which each man is settled, paying for it the 
common price. This the bill grants, and it grants no more. 

My worthy colleague seems to think this bill opposed to the 
policy upon which we supported the land bill some sessions ago. 
I do not think so. I think it quite consistent with that policy. 
If the land bill had passed, and were now a law, and in full op- 
eration, I should still support this bill as the best mode of sell- 
ing, not giving away, but of selling, the lands to which the bill 
applies, and getting payment for them. If the proceeds of the 
public lands were to go to the States, I should still think that 
the true interest of the States required that this bill should be- 
come a law. 

My colleague complains, also, that the bill holds out great in- 
ducements to foreigners to come among us and settle on the 
public lands. He says it is an invitation to the nations of Eu- 
rope to open their workhouses and send hither all their paupers. 
Now, Sir, in all candor, is this the just character of the bill? 
Does it propose any change in our law in respect to foreigners? 
Certainly it does not A foreigner could always come here ; he 
could always buy land at the minimum price ; he stood always 
on an exact footing of equality, in this particular, with our own 
citizens. And would my worthy colleague now make a differ- 
ence by this bill? If two settlers are found on the frontier, each 
on his own quarter-section, each with a family, and each living 
under a roof erected by his own hands, and on the produce of 
fields tilled by his own labor, the one a citizen, and the other a 
foreigner not yet naturalized, would my colleague make a differ- 
ence, and confirm the settlement of one, and break up that of 
the other ? No, I am sure, Sir, he would do no such thing. 
Hie sense of justice and his good feeling would revolt from such 
a course of action as quick as those of any living human being. 

Mr. President, there are some other remarks of my colleague 
to which I should have been glad to make some answer. But 
I will forbear. I regret, most exceedingly, that we differ on 


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this occasion. I know he desires to do justice to those settlers, 
and to all others ; and I cannot but persuade myself that, on 
further reflection, he will be of opinion that some such measure 
as the present ought to be adopted ; because there is no man 
who to a high regard for the public interest unites a greater 
sense of the justice which is due to individuals. 



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The measure introduced at the first (extra) session of the Twenty- 
fifth Congress, for the receipt, custody, and disbursement of the public 
money, having failed to become a law, was revived, with some alter- 
ations, at the ensuing session. On the 16th of January, 1838, a bill 
was introduced into the Senate by Mr. Wright of New York, entitled, 
" An Act to impose additional duties as depositaries on public officers : 
to appoint receivers-general of public money ; and to regulate the safe- 
keeping, transfer, and disbursement of the public money of the United 
States." This bill established what has been called the Sub-treasury 
system. It came up for a second reading on the 30th of January, and 
on the next day it was opposed by Mr. Webster in the following 

" Let the government attend to its own business, and let the 
people attend to theirs." 

" Let the government take care that it secures a sound cu^ 
rency for its own use, and let it leave all the rest to the States 
and to the people." 

These ominous sentences, Mr. President, have been ringing 
in my ears ever since they were uttered yesterday, by the mem- 
ber from New York. Let the government take care of itself, 
and let the people take care of themselves. This is the whole 
principle and policy of the administration, at the present most 
critical moment, and on this great and all-absorbing question of 
the currency. Sir, this is an ill-boding announcements It has 
nothing of consolation, of solace, or of hope in it. It will carry 
through all the classes of commerce and business nothing but 
greater discouragement and deeper fears. And yet it is but rep- 

* A Speech delivered in the Senate of the United States, on the 3l8t of Jan- 
nary, 1838. 


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etition. It is only a renewed exhibition of the same spirit which 
was breathed by the message, and the bill of the last session, 
of which this bill is also full, and which has pervaded all the 
recommendations and all the measures of government since 
May. Yet I confess that I am not, even yet, so familiar with 
it, so accustomed to hear such sentiments avowed, as that they 
cease to astonish me. I am either groping in thick and pal- 
pable darkness myself, in regard to the true objects of the Con- 
stitution, and the duties of Congress under it, or else these 
principles of public policy, thus declared, are at war with our 
most positive and urgent obUgations. 

The honorable member made other observations indicative of 
the same general tone of political feeling. Among his chosen 
topics of commendation of the bill, a prominent one was, that 
it sheltered the administration from that shower of imputa- 
tions, as he expressed it, which would always beat upon it, 
as it beats now, when disasters should happen to the cur- 
rency. Indeed ! And why should the administration, now or 
ever, be sheltered from that shower ? Is not currency a subject 
over which the power and duty of government extend ? Is not 
government justly responsible for its condition ? Is it not, of 
necessity, wholly and entirely under the control and regulation 
of political power ? Is it not a matter, in regard to which the 
people cannot, by any possibility, protect themselves, any more 
than they can, by their own individual efforts, supersede the 
necessity of the exercise by government of any other political 
power? What can the people do for themselves to improve 
the currency ? Sir, the government is justly answerable for the 
disasters of the currency, saving always those accidents which 
cannot at any time be foreseen or provided against. It is at 
least answerable for its own neglect, if it shall be guilty of it, in 
not exercising all its constitutional authority for the correction 
and restoration of the currency. Why does it, how can it, 
shrink from this responsibility ? Why does it retreat from its 
own duty ? Why does it seek, not the laurels of victory, not 
the reputation even of manly contest, but the poor honors of 
studied and eager escape ? Sir, it never can escape. The com- 
mon sense of all men pronounces that the government is, and 
ought to be, and must be, answerable for the regulation of the 
currency of the country ; that it ought to abide, and must abide. 


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the peltings of the*Btorm of imputation, so long as it tarns its 
back upon this momentous question, and seeks to shelter itself 
in the safes and the vaults, the cells and the caverns, of a sub- 
tveasury system. 

But, of all governments that ever existed, the present admin- 
istration has least excuse for withdrawing its care from the 
currency, or shrinking from its just responsibility in regard to it 
Its predecessor, in whose footsteps it professes to tread, has 
uaterfered, fatally interfered, with this subject That interference 
was, and has been, the productive cause of our disasters. Did 
the administration disclaim power over the currency in 1833, 
when it removed the deposits ? And what meant all its subse- 
quent transactions, all its professions, and all its efforts for that 
better currency which it promised, if in truth it did not hold 
itself responsible to the people of the United States for a good 
currency ? From the very first year of the late administration 
to the last, there was hardly a session, if indeed there was 
a single session, in which this duty of government was not 
acknowledged, promises of improvement put forth, or loud 
claims of merit asserted for benefits already conferred. It pro- 
fessed to erect the great temple of its glory on improvements of 
tbe currency. And, Sir, the better currency which has been so 
long promised was not a currency for the government, but a 
currency for the people. It was not for the revenue merely, 
but for the use of the whole commerce, trade, and business 
of the nation. And now, when the whole industry, business, 
and labor of the country are harassed and distressed by the 
evils occasioned by its own interference, government talks, 
with all possible coolness, of the great advantage it will be to 
adopt a system which shall shield itself from a thick-falling 
skower of imputations. It disclaims, it renounces, it abandons 
its duties, and then seeks an inglorious shelter in its professed 
want of power to relieve the people. 

We demand the better currency ; we insist on the fulfilment 
of those high and flattering promises ; and surely there never 
was a government on the face of the earth that could with less 
propriety resist the demand ; yet we see it seek refuge in a dar- 
ing and heartless denial of the competency of its own consti- 
tutional powers. It falls back from its own undertakings, and 
flatly contradicts Kb own pretensions. In my opinion, it can 


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find no refuge where the public voice will not reach it There 
can be no shelter, while these times last, into which government 
can retreat, wherein it can hide and screen itself from the loud 
voice of the country, calling upon it to come forth to fulfil its 
promises ; or at least, now that these promises are all broken, 
to perform its duties. The evils of a disordered currency arc 
evils which do not naturally correct or cure themselves. Nor 
does chance, or good luck, often relieve that community which 
is suiTering under them. They require political remedy ; they 
require provision to be made by government ; they demand the 
skilful hand of experienced statesmen. Until some just remedy 
be applied, they are likely to continue, with more or less of 
aggravation, and no man can tell when ot how they will end. 
It is vain, therefore, quite vain, for government to hope that 
it may retreat from this great duty, shield itself under a sys- 
tem no way agreeing either with its powers or its obliga- 
tions, and thus escape reproach by attempting to escape respon- 

Mr. President, there is fault and failure somewhere. Either 
the Constitution has failed, or its administration fails. The 
great end of a uniform and satisfactory regulation of commerce 
is not answered, because the national currency, an indispensable 
instrument of that commerce, is not preserved in a sound and 
uniform state. 

Is the fault in the Constitution itself? Those who affirm 
that it is, must show how it happened that other administra- 
tions, in other times, have been able to give the people abun- 
dant satisfaction in relation to the currency. I suppose it will 
be said, in answer to this, that the Constitution has been violat- 
ed; that it was originally misconstrued; that those who made 
it did not understand it ; and that the sage and more enlight- 
ened politicians of our times see deeper, and judge more jusliy 
of the Constitution, than Washington and Madison. Certain 
it is that they have more respect for their own sagacity than for 
all the wisdom of others, and all the experience of the countiy ; 
or else they find themselves, by their party politics and party 
commitments, cut offfirom all ability of administering the Con- 
stitution according to former successful practice. 

Mr. President, when I contemplate the condition of the cona- 
tiy; when I behold this utter breaking down of the currency, 


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this wide-spread evil among all the industrious classes, this ac- 
knowledged inability of government to pay its debts legally, this 
prostration of commerce and manufactures, this shocking de- 
rangement of the internal exchanges, and the general crash of 
credit and confidence ; and when I see that three hundred rep- 
resentatives of the people are here assembled to consult on 
the public exigency, and that, repudiating the wisdom of our 
predecessors, and rejecting all the lights of our own experience, 
nothing is proposed for our adoption, to meet an emergency of 
this character, but the bill before us, — I confess, the whole 
scene seems to me to be some strange illusion. I can hardly 
persuade myself that we are all in our waking senses. It ap- 
pears like a dream, like some fantasy of the night, such as the 
opening light of the morning usually dispels. 

There is so little of apparent relation of means to ends ; the 
measure before us has so little to promise for the relief of exist- 
ing evils ; it is so alien, so outlandish, so remote from the causes 
which press down all the great public interests, that I find it 
difficult to regard as real what is thus around me. 

Sir, some of us are strangely in error. The difference be- 
tween us is so wide ; the views which we take of public affairs 
are so opposite ; our opinions, both of the causes of present evils 
and their appropriate remedies, so totally unlike, that one side or 
the other must be under the influence of some strange delusion. 
Darkness, thick darkness, hangs either over the supporters of this 
measure, or over its opponents. Time and the public judgment, 
I trust, will sooner or later disperse these mists, and men and 
measures will be seen in their true character. I think, indeed, 
that I see already some lifting up of the fog. 

The honorable member from New York has said, that we have 
now, already existing, a mode of conducting the fiscal affairs of 
the country, substantially such as this bill will establish. We 
may judge, therefore, he says, of the future by the present A 
sub-treasury system in fact, he contends, is now in operation ; 
and he hopes the country sees so much good in it as to be will- 
ing to make it permanent and perpetual The present system, 
he insists, must at least be admitted not to have obstructed 
or impeded the beneficial action of the immense resources of 
the country. 

Sir, this seems to me a most extraordinary declaration. The 


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operation and energy of the resources of the country not ob- 
B^cted ! The business of the community not impeded ! Why, 
Sir, this can be true only upon the supposition that present 
evils are no way attributable to the policy of government ; that 
they all spring from some extraneous and independent cause. 
If the honorable member means that the disasters which have 
fallen upon us arise from causes which government cannot con- 
trol, such as over-trading or speculation, and that government is 
answerable for nothing, I can understand him, though I do not 
at all concur with him. But that the resources of the country 
are not now in a state of great depression and stagnation, is 
what I had supposed none would assert Sir, what are the re- 
sources of the country? The jGurst of all, doubtiess, is labor. 
Does this meet no impediment ? Does labor find itself reward- 
ed, as heretofore, by high prices, paid in good money? The 
whole mass of industry employed in commerce and manufac- 
tures, does it meet with no obstruction, or hinderance, or dis- 
couragement? And commerce and manufactures, in the aggre- 
gate, embracing capital as well as labor, are they, too, highly 
prosperous ? Is there nothing of impediment or obstruction in 
their present condition ? 

Again, Sir; among our American resources, from the very 
first origin of this government, credit and confidence have held 
a high and foremost rank. We owe more to credit and to com- 
mercial confidence than any nation which ever existed ; and ten 
tiroes more than any nation except England. Credit and con- 
fidence have been the life of our system, and powerfully produc- 
tive causes of all our prosperity. They have covered the seas 
with our commerce, replenished the treasury, paid off the na- 
tional debt, excited and stimulated the manufacturing industry, 
encouraged labor to put forth the whole strength of its sinews, 
feUed the forests, and multiplied our numbers and augmented 
the national wealth so far beyond all example, as to leave us a 
phenomenon for older nations to look at with wonder. And 
this credit, and this confidence, are they now no way obstructed 
or impeded ? Are they now acting with their usual eflBciency, 
and their usual success, on the concerns of society ? 

The honorable member refers to the exchanges. No doubt, 
Sir, the rate of foreign exchange has nothing in it alarming; nor 
has it had, if our domestic concerns were in a proper condi- 


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tion. But that the internal exchanges are in a healthful ccmdi* 
tion, as the honorable member alleges, is what I can by no 
means admit. I look upon the derangement of the internal ex- 
changes as the precise form in which existing evils most mani- 
festly exhibit themselves. Why, Sir, look at the rates between 
large cities in the neighborhood of each other. Exchange be- 
tween Boston and New York, and also between Philadelphia 
and New York, is from one and a half to two per cent This 
could never happen but from a deranged currency ; and can this 
be called a healthful state of domestic exchange ? 

I understand that the cotton crop hats done much towards 
equalizing exchange between New Orleans and New York ; and 
yet I have seen, not many days since, that in other places of 
the South, I believe Mobile, exchange on New York was at a 
j»emium of from five to ten per cent. 

The manufacturers of the North can say how they have 
found, and how they now find, the facilities of exchange. I do 
not mean exdusively, or principally, the large manufacturers of 
cotton and woollen fabrics ; but the smaller manufacturers, men 
who, while they employ many others, still bestow their own la- 
bor on their own capital ; the shop manufacturers, such manu- 
facturers as abound in New Jersey, Connecticut, and other parts 
of the North. I would ask the gentlemen from these States 
how these neighbors of theirs find exchanges, and the means of 
remittance, between them and their correspondents and purchas- 
ers in the South. The carriage-makers, the furniture-makers, 
the hatters, the dealers in leather, in all its branches, the dealers 
in domestic hardware, — I should like to hear the results of the 
experience of all these persons on the state of the internal ex- 
changes, as well 8is on the general question, whether the industry 
of the country has encountered any obstacle in the present state 
of the currency. 

Mr. President, the honorable member from New York stated 
correctly, that this bill has two leading objects. The first is, a 
separation of the revenue and the funds of the government firom 
kil connection with the concerns of individuals, and of corpora- 
tions ; and especially a separation of these funds from all con- 
nection with any banks. The second is, a gradual change in 
our system of currency, to be carried on till we can accomplish 
the object of an exclusive specie or metallic circulation, at least 


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in all payments to government and all disburaeiiientB by gor- 

Now, Sir, I am against both these propositiona, ends as larett 
as means. I am against this separation of government and 
people, as unnatural, selfish, and an abandonment of the most 
important political duties* I am for having but one currency, 
and that a good one, both for the people and the government 
I am opposed to the doctrines of the message of last September, 
and to every thing which grows out of those doctrines* I fed 
as if I were on some other sphere, as if I were not at home, 9M 
if this could not be America, when I see schemes of public poli- 
cy proposed, having for their object the convenience of govern- 
ment only, and leaving the people to shift for themselves, m a 
matter w^hich naturally and necessarily belongs, and in every 
other country is admitted to belong, to the solemn obligatiom 
and the undoubted power of government Is it America, where 
the government, and men in the government, are to be better 
off than the people? Is it America, where government id to 
shut its eyes and its ears to public complaint^ and to take care 
only of itself? Is it America, Mr. President, is it your country, 
and my country, in which, at a time of great public distress^ 
when all eyes are turned to Congress, and when most men feel 
that substantial and practical relief can oome only from Con- 
gress, that Congress, nevertheless, has nothing on earth to pro- 
pose but bolts and bars, safes and vaults, oeUs and hiding-places, 
for the better security of its own money, and nothing on earth, 
not a beneficent law, not even a kind word, for the people them- 
selves? Is it our country in which the interest of government 
has reached such an ascendency over the interest of the people, 
in the estimate of the representatives of the people ? Has this. 
Sir, come to be the state of things in the old thirteen, with the 
H«w thirteen added to them ? For one, I confess, I know not 
what is American, in policy, in public interest, or in publio fed- 
ing, if these measures be deemed American. 

The first general aspect, or feature of the bill, the character 
written broadly on its front, is this abandonment of all concern 
fot the general currency of the country. This is enough for ma 
It secures my opposition to the bill in all stages. Sir, this bill 
ought to have had a preamble. It ought to have been intro- 
duced by a recital, setting forth that, whereas the currency of 

VOL. IV 35 


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the. country has become totally deranged; and whereas it has 
heretofore been thought the bounden duty of this government 
to take proper care of that great branch of the national interest ; 
and whereas that opinion is erroneous, obsolete, and heretical; 
and whereas, according to the true reading of the Constitution, 
the great duty of this government, and its exclusive duty, so far 
as currency is concerned, is to take care of itself; and whereas, 
if government can but secure a sound currency for itself, the 
people may very weU be left to such a currency as the States, 
or the banks, or their own good fortune, or bad fortune, may 
give them ; therefore be it enacted, &c 

The very first provision of the bill is in keeping with its gen- 
eral objects and general charcu^ter. It abandons all the senti- 
ments of civilized mankind, on the subject of credit and confi« 
dence, and carries us back to the Dark Ages. The first that we 
hear b of safes, and vaults, and ceUs, and cloisters. From an 
inteUectual, it goes back to a physical age. From commerce 
and credit, it returns to hoarding and hiding ; from confidence 
and trust, it retreats to bolts and bars, to locks with double keys, 
and to pains and penalties for touching hidden treasure. It is a 
law for the times of the feudal system ; or a law for the heads 
and governors of the piratical states of Barbary. It is a meas- 
ure fit for times when there is no security in law, no value in 
commerce, no active industry among mankind. Here it is 
altogether out of time and out of place. It has no sympathy 
with the general sentiments of this age, still less has it any con- 
geniality with our American character, any relish of our hitherto 
approved and successful policy, or any agreement or conformity 
with the general feeling of the country. 

The gentleman, in stating the provisions of the first sectioni 
piroceeds to say, that it is strange that none of our laws, hereto- 
fore, has ever attempted to give to the treasury of the United 
States a ^ local habitation." Hence it is the object of this first 
section of the bill to provide and define such local habitation. 
A local habitation for the treasury of a great commercial country, 
tn the nineteenth century! Why, Sir, what is the treasury. 
The existing laws call it a " Department" They say, there shall 
be a department, with various officers, and make a proper assign- 
ment of their duties and functions ; and that this shall be the 
Department of the Treasury. It is, thus, an organized part of 


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goTernment; an important and indispensable branch of the gen- 
eral administration, conducting the fiscal affairs of the country, 
and controlling subordinate agents. 

But this bill does away with all legal and political ideas, and 
Imngs this important department down to a thing of bricks and 
mortar. It enacts that certain rooms in the new building, with 
their safes and vaults, shall constitute the treasury of the United 
States! And this adoption of new and strange notions, and 
this abandonment of all old ideas, is all for the purpose of 
accomplishing the great object of separating the affairs of the 
government from the affairs of the country. The nature of the 
means shows the nature of the object; both are novel, strange, 
untried, and unheard of. The scheme. Sir, finds no precedent, 
either in our own history or the history of any other respectable 
nation. It is admitted to be new, original, experimental ; and 
yet its adoption is urged upon us as confidently as if it had 
come down from our ancestors, and had been the cherished 
policy of the country in all past times. 

I am against it altogether. I look not to see whether the 
means be adapted to the end. That end itself is what I oppose^ 
and I oppose all the means leading to it I oppose all attempts 
to make a separate currency for the government, because I insist 
upon it, and shall insist upon it, until I see and feel the pillars 
of the Constitution falling around me, and upon my head, that 
it is the duty of this government to provide a good currency for 
the country, and for the people, as well as for itself. 

I put it to gentlemen to say, whether currency be not a part 
of commerce, or an indispensable agent of commerce ; and some- 
thing, therefore, which this government is bound to regulate, and 
to take care of. Gentlemen will not meet the argument They 
shun the question. We demand that the just power of the 
Constitution shall be administered. We assert that Congress 
has power to regulate commerce, and currency as a part of 
commerce; we insist that the public exigency, at the present 
moment, calls loudly for the exercise of this power, — and what 
do they do ? They labor to convince us that the government 
itself can get on very well without providing a currency for 
the people, and they betake themselves, therefore, to the sub- 
treasury system, its unassailable walls, its iron chests, and 
doubly-secured doors. And having satisfied themselves that, in 


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tiufl way, goTerement may be kept going, they are content A 
flonnd currency for govemraent, a safe currency for revenue,— 
these are the only things promised, the only things proposed. 
But these are not the old promise. The country, the country 
itoelf, and the whole people, were promised a better currency 
for their own use ; a better general currency ; a better currency 
for all the purposes of trade and business. This was the prom- 
ise solemnly given by the government in 1833, and so often 
afterwards renewed, through all successive years, down to May 
lost We heard nothing, all that time, of a separation between 
government and people. No, Sir, not a word. Both were to 
liave an improved currency. Sir, I did not believe a word of all 
this; I thought it all mere pretence or empty boasting. I had 
no faith in these promises, not a pcurticle. But the honorable 
member from New York was confident ; confident then as he is 
now; confident of the success of the first scheme, which was 
plausible, as he is confident of this, which is strange, alien, and 
repulsive in its whole aspect He was then as sure of being abit 
to furnish a currency for the country, as he is now of furnishing a 
currency for government He told us at that time, that he be- 
lieved the system adopted by the late administration was fully 
competent to its object He felt no alarm for the result He 
believed all the President had done, from the removal of the 
deposits downwards, was constitutional and legal ; and he was 
detennined to place himself by the side of the President, and 
desired only to stand or fall in the estimation of his constituents, 
as they should determine in the result ; and that result has now 

As I have said. Sir, I had no faith at all in the promises of 
the administration, made before and at that time, and constantly 
repeated. I felt tio confidence whatever in the whole project; 
I deemed it rash, headstrong, and presumptuous, to the last de- 
gree. And, at the risk of some offence against good taste, 1 
will read a paragraph firom some remarks of mine in February, 
1B34, which sufficiently shows what my opinion and my appre- 
faeBsions then were. 

" I have already endeavored to warn the country against irredeemable 
paper ; against the paper of banks which do not pay specie for their own 
notes ; against that miserable, abominable, and fraudulent policy which 
attempts to give value to any paper, of any bank, one single moment 


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longer than such paper is redeemable on demand in gold and silver, 
f wish most solemnly and earnestly to repeat that warning. I see dan- 
ger of that state of things ahead. I see imminent danger that a portion 
of the State banks will stop specie payments. The late measure of the 
Secretary, and the infatuation with which it seems to be supported, tend 
directly and strongly to that result. Under pretence, then, of a design 
to return to a currency which shall be all specie, we are likely to 
have a currency in which there shall be no specie at all. We are in 
danger of being overwhelmed with irredeemable paper, mere paper, 
representing not gold nor silver ; no. Sir, representing nothing but bro- 
ken promises, bad faith, bankrupt corporations, cheated creditors, and a 
ruined people." 

And now, Sir, we see the upshot of the " experiraent" We 
see around us bankrupt corporations, and broken promises ; but 
we see no promises more really and emphatically broken, than all 
those promises of the administration, which gave us assurance 
of a better currency. These promises, now broken, notoriously 
and openly broken, if they cannot be performed, ough